‘The key challenge [for consumer-directed health care’ is that individuals, and especially cancer patients, will require more detail than physicians are used to giving, or may have time to give.’
Explore This IssueAugust 2006
HealthyQuest stresses weight loss for those who are overweight; regular exercise and fitness; education on risk factors; proactive steps to stop smoking; proper eating habits through vending machine controls and nutritional audits; and an interest in self-care in addition to appropriate medical care.
One thing we learned was to be bold, Mr. Williams said. You can’t be timid. You’ve also got to be patient. We have an entire generation of consumers who believe their health is someone else’s business. You actually have to sell health to employees.
He also said the company had to work hard to convince employees that their privacy would be protected, and that their health status would not be used against them. The message, he said, was: This is about improving your health, not terminating your employment.
Mr. Williams willingly stated that the first year was not a great year. But, he said, when you get the concept across, then you have people who run with it.
In doing an online health risk assessment of employees participating in HealthyQuest, the company found, Mr. Williams said, that 61.7% of employees are overweight or obese; 31.7% eat one or fewer servings or fruits or vegetables a day; 66% exercise aerobically less than three days a week; 21% have high glucose levels; and 43% reported having a serious problem with stress, among other data.
To change this picture, the company started providing financial incentives to participate in HealthyQuest. The company also distributed health education pamphlets. The one on cancer describes screening tests for breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancers, lists risk factors, and describes six lifestyle steps employees can take to reduce their risks of cancer.
Quest Diagnostics found that once the notion of consumer-directed health care programs had taken hold, employees responded with enthusiasm. More than 65% of enrollees in such plans are women, 51% are single, and the average age is 44.
It’s definitely not a one-year thing…it’s not a flash in the pan, Mr. Williams said. Enrollment success breeds success. When employees are interested in taking a more active role in their health; they are definitely capable of directing their care.
Challenge to Provide Details
But, he noted, they need much more specific information and education. So far, the company’s efforts have paid off with thousands of employee pounds shed and thousands of dollars saved in employee health care premium costs for 2006, he said.