Health Literacy: Leveraging Personal Health Nurses to Lower Employer Costs and Improve Outcomes
We talk a lot about lowering healthcare costs in our country—costs that have reached a staggering $4.3 trillion annually.1 For employers, the total cost of providing health benefits, which was $15,013 per employee in 2022, is expected to increase by 5.4% in 2023.2 Poorly managed chronic disease is one of the top reasons for the increase. The CDC estimates that 90% of our nation’s annual healthcare spend goes to people with chronic and mental health conditions.3
Unaddressed chronic conditions cost employers $36.4 billion annually.
Today, unaddressed chronic conditions cost employers $36.4 billion annually.4 And the number of individuals spending $100,000 or more each year on medical care increased by 50% between 2013 and 2021.5
One of the challenges for employers is to balance competitive benefits offerings, which is so vital in today’s tight job market, with reasonable costs. One proven approach is to improve health literacy among employees, especially for those living with chronic diseases.
The importance of health literacy
According to the CDC, “Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.”6 Individuals with lower health literacy are often the same ones who use the most healthcare services.
A lack of health literacy puts individuals, especially those with severe or chronic conditions, at greater risk for poor outcomes and higher costs.
Without a high level of health literacy, it can be challenging for employees to understand the benefits available to them and how to navigate our highly complex healthcare system effectively. They may lack a primary care provider and instead rely on grocery store clinics, urgent care centers, or community health resources when sick. In these cases, there is no single provider connecting all the dots of the employee’s care needs across the continuum. And that can lead to ineffective care, higher costs, and poorer outcomes.
A lack of health literacy puts individuals, especially those with severe or chronic conditions, at greater risk for poor outcomes and higher costs. In fact, 26% of consumers with low health literacy also have a serious medical condition.7
A more holistic approach
By focusing on the highest-risk employees who incur the highest costs for the company, organizations can create more effective health management programs. One of the best ways to do this is through Personal Health Nurses (PHN). A PHN is a registered nurse who acts as the employee’s partner in their healthcare journey. PHNs can help employees better understand their benefits and how to utilize them while also serving as care navigators to help the employee more effectively traverse the healthcare system. These two acts alone can vastly increase an employee’s health literacy and lead to a lifetime of better health.
A Personal Health Nurse ensures the employee has every available resource to better manage their health conditions and lead healthier lives.
Besides more effective care management, a PHN helps connect the dots in a way that typical call center resources cannot. For example, a PHN can help the individual get in to see an in-demand specialist sooner than they could on their own. Or they can help ensure that a much-needed medical device is delivered to the employee’s home and that they understand how to use it. A PHN can also coordinate with the employee’s primary care provider to ensure the employee understands their diagnosis and care plan.
A PHN connects the dots to ensure the employee has every available resource to better manage their health conditions and lead healthier lives.
Connecting the dots with Conifer Health
Improving health literacy is vital to improving employee health and lowering costs. Conifer Health can help. Our Personal Health Nurses assist members in navigating the care continuum to find the right care, in the right setting, at the right time. We understand that a highly personalized, team-based approach to healthcare can increase member engagement and optimize benefit plan utilization through collaborative care management and heightened health literacy.
With Conifer Health, employers have experienced the following:
drop in the number of individuals seeing 15+ providers
decrease in individuals with 4+ ER visits over 12 months
decrease in individuals having 9+ physicians writing prescriptions