Businessolver Blog

Breaking the Language Barrier: 3 Steps to Improving Health Literacy

Breaking the Language Barrier: 3 Steps to Improving Health Literacy
Posted on Friday, September 22, 2017 by Rae Shanahan
Share:
shutterstock_212693299.jpg
In the U.S., only 14 percent of adults can correctly define common health insurance terms and more than half of enrollees do not know how HSAs work. 

 

shutterstock_212693299

This lack of health literacy leads 28 percent of people to say that reviewing their benefits during Annual Enrollment is worse than losing their cell phone – which is pretty bad, considering how much most of us love our phones!   

One of the best ways to help employees overcome these negative feelings about their benefits is through education. With more knowledge and better understanding, employees will feel empowered to take control of their benefits experience – good for them, and for your organization’s bottom line, too. Studies show that U.S. employers spend 200 to 300 percent more on the indirect costs of healthcare in the form of absenteeism, sick days, and lower productivity, than they do on actual healthcare payments. So, employees who understand how to get the most out of their benefits to stay healthy drive better business outcomes.

But you can’t have a culture of health without a culture of health literacy. Here are three steps you can take to improve your employees’ health literacy and ensure they better understand how to effectively enroll and use their benefits:

Year-round communication
Communicating about benefits and healthcare tends to be a priority leading up to Annual Enrollment, but too often, it stops once enrollment is over. Education isn’t a one-time thing – it’s essential to make it an ongoing process throughout the year.

When planning your communications strategy, take time to map it to the calendar and establish a steady cadence of educational communications that focus on a range of important benefits topics. To help prevent communication fatigue, consider incorporating incentives or gamification to keep employees engaged and make sure the information sticks with them throughout the year.

Simplify the information 
It’s easy to litter communications with healthcare jargon that we as HR professionals use every day. But those terms aren’t familiar or helpful to most employees. Simplify your message by clearly explaining to employees – in layman’s terms – their benefits options, as well as what each option does and how it works. Most employees are never going to be healthcare experts, but they can be literate in basic, need-to-know information, which will help them make better, more informed decisions.

Be where your employees are
How do your employees like to receive their information? Via email? Mobile app? Printed handouts? Or all of the above? Determine how your employees best digest information so that you can communicate through channels that are sure to capture their attention.

At Businessolver, we found that communicating with our employees about their benefits on a regular basis through a variety of formats has greatly increased our enrollment rates. Throughout the year, we host in-person informational sessions, provide informational videos that employees can easily access and share, and regularly update our Benefits Guide. And we always try to put our own unique Businessolver spin on things. For example, this year, we partnered with a local brewery so Solvers could grab a local craft beer while they learned more about their benefits options. A cold glass of beer and higher health literacy – two things our Solvers will happily cheers to!