When it comes to staying healthy, a little preventive care can go a long way. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 7 in 10 American deaths each year are caused by chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. And while many of these can be prevented or detected early, the CDC says that too many Americans go without preventive care services.
So what explains the disconnect? It typically boils down to inadequate communication. People can’t take advantage of preventive healthcare services they don’t know exist. Because of this, companies looking to boost preventive care adoption among employees must also think critically about how they communicate both the benefits of preventive healthcare and the specific services offered by their health plans. Here’s a guide.
While the services that fall under the “preventive care” umbrella are broad, all share the goal of keeping patients healthy and preventing serious disease. Regular check-ups, for example, can catch diseases early, while diet counseling can help patients manage or prevent diseases such as diabetes.
But in spite of the clear benefits of these tests and services, many employees are still hesitant to take advantage of them. Why? Because many people see preventive care as a luxury, and worry about the potential deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments attached to wellness visits or disease screenings. This is why it’s vital that companies also stress that preventive healthcare services are, in most cases, completely covered by existing insurance plans. By making this clear, companies can both improve employee health and help those employees see the value of the coverage that their employer provides.
Cigna, a global health service company, offers some useful tools to keep its members informed about the kinds of preventive care covered by their health plans. Its Check-Up Checklist, for example, which lists the routine immunizations, health screenings, and interventions that are considered preventive care, is designed for patients to bring along with them on doctors’ visits. (An added bonus: Cigna offers different versions of the checklist designed specifically for men, women, and children.)
In aggregate, increasing the number of employees who take advantage of preventive health could have a significant impact on the overall economy. Overall, the CDC estimates a loss of $260 billion from the economy every year due to illness-driven decreases in productivity.
The key to getting more employees to take advantage of preventive healthcare services lays in increasing awareness and creating the right incentives for employees. At many companies, employees are rarely given information or reminders about their health benefits once the onboarding process ends. Annual physicals, cancer screenings, or subsidized gym memberships included in an employee’s benefits package might go forgotten once they settle into a routine.
Consistent communication year-round after the onboarding process will increase the likelihood of preventive care usage, but with the flood of emails and meetings in daily work life, it can be easy to miss the attention of workers. This is why AT&T, rather than detailing its benefits in a static text document, brands its benefits as “rewards” on a webpage reminiscent of a generous credit card points package.
The bottom line is that, while no company can force employees to take advantage of preventive healthcare services, there are plenty of tools and techniques that can motivate employees to do so. With the right combination of communications and incentives, companies can nudge even the most stubborn employees into taking the first steps toward a healthier future.