HARTFORD, Conn.--(AET) has focused on addressing this issue for years and is proud to support Health Literacy Month.)--More than 90 million people in the United States struggle to understand basic health information. In many cases, the information that people receive from insurance companies, hospitals and other parts of the health care system is confusing and complicated. Aetna (NYSE:
“We want Aetna employees to understand how they can help our customers”
Aetna's efforts to help people better understand their health benefits include:
- Writing materials at a fifth-grade reading level
- Sharing self-help tools like “David,” the Aetna Benefits AdvisorSM
- Sharing public websites like Plan for Your Health
- Training Aetna employees on health literacy
“People with low health literacy can have trouble taking medicine correctly,” said Jill Griffiths, Aetna’s head of Communications. "This can also make it hard for them to follow doctor's instructions and understand how health plans work. All of these issues can be harmful to their health and increase health care costs.”
“We have made progress with our work," said Griffiths, who is also executive sponsor of Aetna’s health literacy team, "but we still have room to improve. Our goal is to help people live healthier lives. One way we do that is by making our information easier to understand.”
Listening to Customers
Aetna holds annual focus groups to hear from real people. They provide valuable feedback on how to improve written materials. Aetna used this insight in the recent redesign of the Explanation of Benefits statement. Changes include:
- Making the language conversational and the tone positive
- Delivering the most important information in an at-a-glance format
- Providing a glossary of health insurance terms on the first page
Another example of how Aetna "listens to learn" is with “David,” Aetna’s virtual benefits advisor. This interactive character helps people choose their health plans. David was honored with the top national award from the Center for Plain Language for the past two years. And ninety-nine percent of people surveyed who used David described him as helpful in picking their health plans. Consumer feedback on David is used to make ongoing improvements to the tool.
Improving Health Literacy: Part of Aetna’s Culture
All Aetna employees take a course that focuses on the importance of health literacy and plain language. Employees who deal directly with members receive additional training to help ensure that members understand the information they receive.
Aetna further educates employees on health literacy in several ways:
- An internal website with tools and resources
- A quarterly newsletter with tips on how to write clearly
- “Jargon Alerts,” which show employees words to avoid that are commonly used in the health insurance industry
“We want Aetna employees to understand how they can help our customers,” Griffiths said. “Avoiding jargon is a big help. So is writing a letter more clearly or making an online tool easier to use.”
Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 36.7 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities, Medicaid health care management services and health information technology services. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, health care providers, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see www.aetna.com.