Patient Engagement
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“Benefits Couldn’t Be More Confusing If We Tried” (04:05)

“There are a lot of challenges as we think about the current world of benefits design and how the consumer experience is,” says Patient Engagement Lead Advisor Kevin Volpp, who discussed the value of benefits design with Wendy Wood and David Kirchhoff.

“If you get a 100+ page description of what’s in your health benefits, it’s pretty likely you’re not going to really understand it that well and you’re not going to know what you’re being incented to do and what you’re not being incented to do. I think the clear implication of that is that we need to make benefit designs much simpler,” Volpp says. He discusses a health plan he and colleagues David Laibson and George Loewenstein worked on for Humana, in which patients were offered a one-and-a-half page list of medical services, broken up into five tiers of pricing.

Kirchhoff illustrates how difficult it must be for the average person trying to figure out health benefits by explaining how, upon leaving Weight Watchers, he had to sign up for his own coverage. “I’d like to think I knew something, just a little bit about insurance, because I worked at a company that was self-insured — we had benefits meetings and everything else,” Kirchhoff says. “And when I was faced with a screen of picking my plan, it was completely incomprehensible.”

“I have to believe that the average person who’s never had to deal with this on any kind of regular basis, looks at these things and they just have absolutely no idea what we’re talking about. I mean, we could not be any more confusing if we tried,” he adds.

So what can be done? Focus on outcome indicators, says Wood. She describes how businesses improve their brand image through successful health plan outcomes such as exercise and weight loss programs, charity events, and more. Health care organizations, she says, can model this behavior, and improve their brand image by advocating for peoples’ health. “There are lots of things that you can do to differentiate yourself as a health care provider that offers value,” Wood says.

From the NEJM Catalyst event Patient Engagement: Behavioral Strategies for Better Health at the University of Pennsylvania, February 25, 2016.

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