According to research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), a non-profit organization that conducts research and assembles and disseminates information related to employee benefits, those most likely to seek information on American health care costs, accessibility, and quality to make an informed decision are young people, those that experience an increase in cost sharing or premiums, and females. The research also found that individuals with a higher educational level were those most likely to research information. The analysis was based on the EBRI/MGA 2010 Health Confidence Survey. Those participating in the EBRI/MGA 2010 Health Confidence Survey were asked if they had tried to find any objective information within the last two years on any of following subjects:
- If and how many disciplinary actions were taken against a particular hospital or physician.
- The disadvantages and advantages of various treatments.
- The cost of various treatments.
- The cost associated with various hospitals and physicians.
- The experience, training, and certification of a particular physician.
- Statistics on procedures performed at a particular hospital, such as the number performed and rate of success.
Related to the above questions, the study found the following key points:
- Fourteen percent reported that they had sought information on how many disciplinary actions had been taken against a hospital or physician.
- Twenty-four percent attempted to look at the costs associated with various hospitals and physicians.
- Twenty-eight percent attempted to find the complete costs of various treatments.
- Forty-five percent of Americans reported trying to obtain health information related to the disadvantages and advantages of various treatments.
The author of the study pointed out that many companies have shifted the costs of health care toward their employees, which has resulted in many individuals searching for ways to simultaneously control their costs and improve the quality of the care they receive. Such individuals are researching information that will help them to make beneficial and educated decisions.
Related to the motivators behind information seeking, the study found some interesting points on cost-shifting, health status, demographics, and health coverage:
Cost-shifting. Respondents that had experienced cost sharing increases or premium increases were more likely than those not experiencing such to seek information on their doctor’s credentials, the disadvantages and advantages of various treatments, provider costs, and treatment costs.
Health status. The individuals that considered themselves in poor to fair health were more likely to make informational searches on how many given procedures a hospital has performed and what the hospital’s success rate is on the procedure. Of the respondents reporting a worsening health status over the previous five years, 52% said they attempted to gather information on the disadvantages and advantages of various treatment options.
Demographics. Individuals older than 65-years-old were less likely than those under 45-years-old to make attempts to find information on the cost associated with various hospitals, physicians, and treatments; the disadvantages and advantages of various treatment options; and if and how many disciplinary actions have been taken against a hospital or physician. Additionally, when compared to white individuals, there were indicators that low-income individuals and minorities may be more likely to search for cost-related information.
Health coverage. Respondents with health coverage were less likely than the uninsured respondents to do information searches on the cost of treatment and providers costs. Respondents unsatisfied with their existing health plan were more apt than those very/extremely satisfied with their existing health plan to seek information on provider costs, treatment costs, and the disadvantages and advantages of various treatments.
In closing, benefit plan sponsors can use information like the above to better understand and connect with their workers.