New Report Assesses How Employers use the Internet to Raise Employee Health I-CUE™ - Large Employers Seek to Increase Consumer Awareness of Health and Healthcare

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One Google search for “Diabetes” results in 34 million possible information sites. Surfing for health information on the Internet is not easy and with the wealth of information available, consumers still blindly shop for healthcare. That is why employers are moving aggressively to healthcare information technology vendors that can provide decision support to increase the consumer’s ability to choose, use, and evaluate healthcare, or consumer Health I-CUE™....

One Google search for “Diabetes” results in 34 million possible information sites. Surfing for health information on the Internet is not easy and with the wealth of information available, consumers still blindly shop for healthcare. That is why employers are moving aggressively to healthcare information technology vendors that can provide decision support to increase the consumer’s ability to choose, use, and evaluate healthcare, or consumer Health I-CUE™, concludes a new report released today by Health2 Resources. The report, “How Employers Are Using the Internet to Increase Employee Health I-CUE,” surveys business coalitions and major national employers to determine how they are using IT to support new health benefit strategies that rely on consumer involvement.

Health2 Resources, a national public relations, marketing and research firm based in the Washington, D.C. area, published the online report as a follow-up to its 2002 study done in association with the National Business Coalition on Health, “How Employers Are Using the Internet to Manage Health Benefits--the eHealth Promise.” The new report can be found at http://www.health2resources.com.

“Our findings reflect the evolving terrain employers travel when they consider Internet/Intranet-based health information technology tools to help manage employee health benefits,” said Katherine H. Capps, principal consultant with Health2 Resources. “We found that healthcare IT is increasingly seen by employers as an important enabler for new-era health benefit strategies that rely on engagement of consumers--their employees--through consumer-driven health care.”

But the report shows that some employers are cautious about these new products. “They feel that these products will not deliver on their promise in the absence of robust consumer decision support capabilities that guide consumers as they choose, use and evaluate the healthcare system, “ said Capps.

“For years employers and employer coalitions have worked to obtain publicly available data to educate consumers about healthcare quality and prices,” Capps said. “They need online tools that illuminate the uneven and inconsistent quality of health care and to help them know what to expect during a treatment encounter.

“The Internet by no means will ensure that this information will suddenly become available,” she added. “It does, however, have the power to facilitate the use of and distribution of information if we unclog the flow of that information and ensure that it is credible, easy to understand and available.”

Janet Marchibroda, President and CEO of the eHealth Initiative, said employer adoption of Internet tools to educate consumers is part of a broader movement to use IT to make healthcare more efficient and effective for all.

“For too long, healthcare delivery has been a disconnected, disjointed and frustrating experience for patients and providers,” Marchibroda said. “As we develop standards to exchange healthcare information in a secure, safe Web environment, we will eliminate much of the waste that presently plagues the system. It makes sense that large employers, who emphasize efficiency in their own business practices, are early adopters of health care IT tools.”

The report includes an evaluation of how employers select health benefit IT vendors, based on their ability to offer:

1. Information to Choose— individual providers, hospitals or care networks, health plans, benefit programs, physicians and systems of care;

2. Information to Use—tools that allow interactive claims management, enable chronic disease and care management, educate them about best practices for chronic conditions and acute care needs, offer research and evidence-based treatment options and caregiver options.

3. Information to Evaluate—tools that measure outcomes, assess safety, quality and cost; comparative customer service and patient perception reporting.

“Employers are looking for tools to equip employees to be better informed healthcare consumers, and Health I-CUE is a rubric for evaluating those tools,” Capps said. “Overall, we found that employers are becoming much more sophisticated in using IT in the health benefit arena, and are indeed driving the market by demanding more than provider lists from content vendors and health plans.”

Health2 Resources employed a three-pronged approach to the topic, beginning with an initial review of the pertinent literature. The second prong was primary research using a survey of business coalitions and a small segment of large employers who were identified as “early adopters” of health care IT. The survey results represent responses from local and regional employer coalitions representing more than 8 million employees (more than 21 million covered lives) and large employers representing an additional 1.2 million employees in the U.S. (close to 3.4 million covered lives).

Moving from broad to specific, Health2 Resources then sought to understand the actual use of eHealth tools via extended interviews with benefit management executives from General Electric, Ford Motor Company, Procter & Gamble, UPS, Southwest Airlines and RR Donnelly & Sons. Narratives from the interviews are included in the report.

“The result of moving from the mile-high view down to the ground gave us a three-dimensional picture of creative application of the Internet in the management of health benefits,” Capps said. “We were interested in finding out how the market has changed since we last fielded the survey in 2002 with business coalitions. In the personal interviews, we wanted to understand what motivated each company to move forward with a health benefits Internet strategy, the strategic focus of the company, the IT applications the company is presently using and future health care IT plans.”

Research from the survey and interviews also revealed information about vendor expectations and the early “lessons learned” by employers in vendor management.

“By doing follow-up interviews with two of our four featured companies from our 2002 report, we were also able to gather unique insight in how far these companies have traveled over the past two years,” Capps said.

The report also features an updated “Employer’s Guide to Selection of eHealth Vendors,” a detailed guide for employers to determine their health care IT needs and tips to find the right vendor.

“The Employer’s Guide is a roadmap based on the experience of many of these early adopters of health care IT, complete with tips to plot your path and warning signs to watch for,” Capps said. “Our guide in the first report was very well received. Within the rapidly changing eHealth landscape, it makes sense to update this roadmap to guide the way as employers seek to offer consumer decision support tools to choose, use and evaluate health care.”

About Health2 Resources

Health2 Resources provides research and strategic planning, communications and program development services to a broad mix of clients. The firm develops marketing strategies, facilitates focus groups, conducts market and financial research, and assists clients to refine customer identification and relationship management programs. With particular expertise in health care and public policy the Health2 Resources team brings an outstanding mix of skills and capabilities to evaluation of market dynamics relating to the health care industry among all stakeholders. Visit: http://www.health2resources.com.

Note to Editors: If you would like to interview Katherine Capps about report findings please call Karla Hurter at 703-319-0957/ Cell phone 571-276-3116

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This press release was distributed through eMediawire by Human Resources Marketer (HR Marketer: http://www.HRmarketer.com) on behalf of the company listed above.

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