Prevention/Preventive Services

Preventable illness accounts for close to 90% of all health care costs, yet only 5% of costs go to prevention – the other 95% go to treatment. Employers are increasingly realizing the opportunity to control costs by reducing the need and demand for high-cost treatment services, not to mention the added benefit of a more active, engaged and productive workforce.    

Preventive services can be seen as "low hanging fruit" – an opportunity for employers to address health problems or diagnose chronic diseases in their early stage before they become expensive.  However, based on a 2010 MBGH employer survey on preventive benefits, there is a gap in effectively communicating what is available to their employees and family members. In fact, 30% of employers don’t know the overall level of engagement of their covered population in using preventive care benefits despite the fact that 67% of them use incentives (primarily premium differentials) to encourage the use of these services.

The survey also revealed that few workers take advantage of the preventive care benefits the company already offers:

  • Only 40% of employees take advantage of immunization and lifestyle management programs
  • 88% of employees lack the essential understanding of the value of preventive care
  • 56% of employees have no motivation to stay healthy

To encourage the use of preventive care and other benefits, we must first have an understanding of what prevents employees and their dependents from taking advantage of them. 

The level of trust in an organization is critical to supporting a successful communication effort. The results of the 2011 MBGH white paper Employee Health Engagement: Identifying the Triggers and Barriers to Engaging Employees in Their Health Benefits indicate that employees can be skeptical of their company intention in offering onsite health and wellness programs or encouraging employees to go to their doctor.

If employers are wanting to increase the level of trust at their company they may want to try one or more of the following: 

  • Review the company's communication strategy and confirm it includes messaging that highlights the company’s intent in offering the programs and recommending the services
  • Communicate how HIPAA protects the confidentiality of an employee's medical information and that the company only views health results (i.e. biometric screenings) in aggregate
  • Reinforce the value of health services offered, including company sponsored (i.e. Employee Assistance Programs) or community-based programs to help employees and family members address personal and work-related issues
  • Be sure to link incentives to your benefit design strategy to drive participation. Be sure to communicate how employee's are using benefits to become more healthy.
  • Monitor utilization of preventive programs and services to measure engagement – make these services a core component of your overall strategy to support utilization

Preventive Screening Checklist