While Anthem’s recent data breach raised concerns on the security of personal data, an employee’s ability to actually understand and interpret personal health information may be the larger, long-term issue at hand – and a vehicle that employers can use to boost employee engagement.

While the majority of consumers say it’s relatively easy to access the information on their health plans, just over half (53%) say it’s difficult to either understand their personal health information, and/or understand what they need to do to maintain or improve their health, according to recent data from HealthMine.

Some of the top concerns include employees’ desire for additional guidance on their health that they say they aren’t currently getting from plan sponsors, due to data overload.

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Some specific areas that came up include:

  • 85% want to know if they have health risks for developing chronic conditions.
  • 55% want help from their health care plan in setting personal health goals.
  • 65% want their health plan to send them reminders about critical health actions such as prescription refills and annual health exams.

Tuesday’s data dovetails with earlier calls for help from employers to digest and streamline their agglomerated health data, with a majority (71%) saying they want help from their companies in the form of programs and guidelines for health management.

But as technology improves, more tools are becoming available for consumers to better interpret and organize such data, said Bryce Williams, president and CEO of HealthMine.

“The old way of organizing was group meetings, group phone numbers and call centers with certain business hours. Now we have 24/7/365 access,” he said. Technology has advanced us from getting a piece of paper with a phone number to having individual highly personalized data, he added. But putting that information into action still remains an issue, he notes.

“Our ability to track and report more health data than ever before isn’t necessarily helping consumers improve their health,” Williams said. “We need to close the gap between data collection and meaningful interpretation. Consumers are calling for more support and direction in reaching health goals, and it’s important for employers, payers and other health plan sponsors to help.”

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