Clinically Speaking: Encouraging Members to Prioritize Personal Health

We explore actions plan sponsors can take to encourage members and employees to make their health a priority.

New research conducted by OnePoll for MDLIVE, an Evernorth Health Services company, reveals that 72% of Americans are “somewhat” or “very concerned” about their financial health, while only 59% feel the same way about their personal health. Of course, concerns about finances are even more pronounced when consumers face rising inflation and a possible recession.

The OnePoll research identified two prominent barriers to consumers putting off routine health care: Time and money. Forty-seven percent admit to skipping routine wellness visits and preventive screenings because they’re too busy. And thirty-nine percent say that prioritizing their health would be too expensive or force them to dip into money earmarked for other things.

Basic steps to encourage members to focus on personal health

There are some basic steps plan sponsors can take to encourage members and employees to take care of their health.

  • Offer financial incentives for members who complete a wellness screening or engage in activities or lifestyle choices that positively impact health. These types of wellness incentives are proven to motivate people to be healthier.
  • Create an environment that encourages employees to take time for wellness screenings and routine preventive care.
  • Improve access to care by bringing it to employees through worksite clinics, from permanent centers to pop-up sites and mobile units.

A 2021 survey from the National Association of Worksite Health Centers showed that 52% of eligible employees and 32% of dependents accessed services through worksite clinics in 2020. Utilization remained largely unchanged even after many workers went remote.

Expanding access to care

In addition to the steps above, there are other actions plan sponsors can take to expand access to care, which, in turn, will improve the health of members and the overall affordability of their plan.

Plan sponsors must foster an environment where employees feel comfortable taking a day off when they or a family member are sick or simply need a mental health day. They need to make mental health a priority, and members should know what resources are available to them, either through their health plan or Employee Assistance Program.

Plan sponsors should also consider the telehealth options they offer to members, which can address both affordability and time concerns. One recent analysis shows that, on average, a virtual urgent care visit costs $141 less than being seen at an urgent care clinic. Members can schedule virtual care appointments to fit around their busy schedules and don’t have to worry about travel to and from doctor’s offices or sitting in a waiting room. Virtual care providers address a broad range of health care needs beyond treating common, acute conditions, such as sinusitis, sore throat, cold and flu. For example, members can use virtual care for chronic condition management, sleep issues, skin conditions, as well as anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.

Because chronic conditions represent a disproportionate amount of total plan spending, it’s important to find ways to support members struggling with them. Communication, flexibility, and compassion are crucial. Plan sponsors should make sure members are aware of the resources available to them and promote their use. That includes disease management tools and personalized health coaching programs designed to help people understand and manage their conditions.

With 47% of individuals skipping routine wellness visits because they’re too busy and 39% percent say that prioritizing their health is too costly, plan sponsors play a crucial role to help members improve their health and their plan.

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