For anyone, hearing that they may be required to undergo a new medical test, treatment or procedure can be overwhelming, especially when they don't know what their options are.
Your employees are sure to have the same feelings. Empowering them with tools and resources they can use will not only help them learn how to save money and shop for care but take control of and become educated on their health care. Here are five questions they should ask to better understand their health care needs and options.
1. Are there simpler, safer options?
Encourage your employees to take full advantage of preventive care benefits such as an annual physical, mammogram and other routine health screenings – all of which are covered at 100%. This allows plan participants to identify any potential health problems in the early stages and possibly make lifestyle changes that can address the health issue. For instance, if an employee has high blood pressure, diet and exercise changes could prevent the employee from needing to add a medication treatment plan in the future.
Employees should also consider whether they need see their doctor for a face-to-face appointment, or if a virtual doctor visit can address their concern. Virtual visits and convenience care clinics tend to be the least expensive way to treat many routine illnesses. It is advisable to direct employees to utilize the 24-hour nurse line through your provider to answer health questions and to determine if care is needed.
2. How much does it cost?
The cost of a procedure at a local hospital may differ from the cost of the same procedure at an outpatient center. Encourage your employees to use shopping, price and quality transparency tools to compare costs for tests, treatments or any over-the-counter items they may need before undergoing the recommended procedure, test, or treatment. Many of these comparison tools are available from your health insurance provider and can show the cost differences in completing tests and procedures at an outpatient center versus a hospital, for instance.
It’s important for employees to understand that a difference in cost does not directly correlate with a difference in quality. Most insurance providers have a tool to compare services and help employees understand the best option for them.
3. Where can I find more information about the test/treatment/procedure?
We know that the internet can quickly lead to an overabundant supply of misleading, and sometimes unsettling, information.
Before employees begin researching the test, treatment, or procedure themselves, they should ask their doctor for recommendations of reliable resources. This will ensure a reliable resource for when additional questions invariably come up, and the confidence to know that that they are receiving accurate information.
4. What are the risks?
Employees should also consider the risks before opting in for any test, treatment or procedure. Consider whether the proposed course of action will involve risk or lead to unnecessary pain or discomfort.
Employees should also understand if the test will yield clear results after one test, or if they are willing to undergo additional testing if necessary.
5. Do I need to act immediately?
Employees need to understand if the services recommended will help diagnose or treat a problem. Will the condition get worse, stay the same, or improve if they don’t act on it right away? Employees can also work with their doctor to understand the urgency of the treatment or procedure. If there is an opportunity to delay the timing of the procedure until the new health plan year when all tests, procedures and follow up care can be covered in the same year, employees can minimize their out-of-pocket costs and contribute to their health savings account (HSA) to cover the expected procedures.
With these five questions, employees can begin to feel more comfortable asking their doctors about proposed treatment plans and actively participating in their health care journey.