Employees Rely More on Employer, Health Plan Information

By Staff Report

Feb. 3, 2011

Employees are turning more to their employers and health plans for medical and health-related information, according to a nationwide survey that the National Business Group on Health released Feb. 1.

Employees also say they are somewhat familiar with “comparative effectiveness research,” the science that compares the clinical effectiveness of various health care interventions to determine which course of treatment works the best.

Employers are looking for ways to incorporate comparative effectiveness research into their health benefit design to ensure that employees are receiving safe, appropriate and cost-effective care, said Helen Darling, president of the Washington-based NBGH.

Funding for comparative effectiveness research also is included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The NBGH survey found that 75 percent of employees used their employer as a resource for medical and health information in 2010, a significant increase from 54 percent in 2007, the last time this survey was conducted. In addition, 69 percent of respondents rated their employers as completely, very, or moderately trustworthy sources of such health information.

Darling said part of the reason that employees are relying more on employers to provide such information is the fact that “employers are gateways of information … they are the conduits.” In addition, as employees are paying a greater portion of their health care costs, they increasingly are seeking such information, she said.

“This is a combination of newly empowered consumers” and “more transparency and more information” being made publicly available, resulting in a “more informed and skeptical public,” Darling said.

The NBGH survey also found increased use of health plan resources for health and medical information, with 76 percent of employees relying on that source in 2010, up from 67 percent in 2007.

Growing numbers of workers also turned to health-oriented websites, the survey found, while fewer workers sought information from doctors’ offices, published articles, prescription drug package inserts and, pharmacies, and  as well as medical school, hospital and governmental websites.

Employees also are becoming more inquisitive, either looking up information about their symptoms prior to seeing their doctors (85 percent) or bringing a list of questions (71 percent) or an advocate (52 percent) with them to office visits, according to the survey.
The survey included responses of 1,538 employees ages 22 to 69 who were working for an organization with at least 2,000 employees. It was conducted Oct. 4-15, 2010, by Washington-based market research firm Mathew Greenwald & Associates Inc.  

Filed by Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail


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