AHIP: 8 innovative ways to increase members' health literacy

Are insurers providing their members with clear and easy-to-understand information about their health and benefits? America's Health Insurance Plans looked into that question and identified eight key approaches that some insurers are taking to boost their members' health literacy in a new report.

Health literacy is a central aspect to insurers' ability to successfully engage members to self-manage their chronic diseases, ensure smooth care transitions, boost medication adherence and increase wellness and prevention. That's why some insurers have taken steps such as providing cross-cultural training for networked doctors to help improve communication with their members and address health literacy.

UnitedHealth, for example, is working to simplify its members' experience by using plain language that promotes health literacy and equity. It's also simplifying its member communications based on individual preferences and providing a continuity and connectivity through each one of those experiences. And Premera Blue Cross has simplified and reorganized its explanation of benefits, making it easier to read, understand and use, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Still, almost nine out of 10 adults have trouble using information to make informed decisions about their health, AHIP said. What's more, consumers often don't understand medical terms and instructions or explanation of benefits.

Based on surveys, outreach and interviews with its member plans, AHIP identified eight common approaches that some insurers have implemented and could serve as models to increase health literacy throughout the industry:

  1. Determine whether an infrastructure exists to provide clear, easy-to-use information.
  2. Convene teams of professionals from all of the company's units that touch consumers via the written or spoken word to address health literacy.
  3. Use tools, such as the organizational assessment, to help jump start a program or as a planning and prioritization tool.
  4. Adopt a targeted reading level to use on all communications with consumers.
  5. Conduct inventories of jargon and acronyms used by the company and create lists of "words to avoid" and "words to use" as alternatives.
  6. Create checklists for evaluating written documents so they conform to principles of clear health communications.
  7. Consider a company-wide policy that new and revised documents must conform to principles of clear health communication.
  8. Provide training to a broad group of employees to increase awareness and enhance skills.

AHIP noted that consumer testing of materials is also an important step in achieving health literacy. It may help for insurers to think creatively to obtain consumer feedback on materials by, for example, obtaining their suggestions through existing assessment tools.

To learn more:
- here's the AHIP report