6 Tips for Getting Employees to Better Utilize Preventive Health Care

“I’m here because my father got cancer,” I said to the doctor at my first annual check up in almost four years. She was running about 40 minutes behind.

“He didn’t get his regular check ups, so they caught his cancer at an advanced stage,” I continued with some conviction. She nodded and told me to come back the next day at 8 a.m. — after fasting — to get blood drawn.

What? Why not right now? Didn’t she know how hard it was to get time off work plus a babysitter so I could get to this appointment? Does it surprise you to know that — two years later — I’m still thinking about the lab work I need to do?

Clearly, a teachable moment like my own father’s diagnosis propelled me into the doctor office. Your employees are having similar ah-ha moments. But, no one was helping me make it priority. I just had my first child. I was renovating a house. My list goes on, just as your employees’ does.

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It’s true that under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most employer-sponsored plans will be offering network preventive care free of charge. That’s one less barrier to completing the recommended screenings. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Outline the steps. Make it a 1-2-3 checklist and help employees understand some of the roadblocks. (Like, you might have to go twice to get blood work.) If your company offers biometric screenings at most work locations, show employees how much time you’re saving them. Click here to read more about launching a biometric screening.
  2. Work with your insurance partner. Personalized reminders can be amazing — because the messages are so relevant. With birthday and gender information, your insurance partner can send out the recommended screenings for your employees without you needing to touch protected health information.
  3. Point to particulars. The news is filled with clashing opinions about what preventive care is important. The new law is designed to cover preventive services that score high on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s list, such as breast and colon cancer screenings, routine vaccines for children and preventive care for children. Make sure you promote the complete list of services at www.healthcare.gov.
  4. Promote incentives. If you’re offering a premium discount or cash in an HSA or FSA for participating in healthy actions, don’t be bashful. Promote the heck out of ‘em. Even well meaning employees sometimes need a nudge, and a little cash back in their pocket can be just the ticket.
  5. Use testimonials. I got you with my personal story, didn’t I? People like to see their own situation — warts and all — reflected in others. Ask for volunteers who’ve benefited from a preventive visit or your wellness program to tell their story. If that makes your organization uncomfortable, create compelling fictional stories.
  6. Target your demographics. A recent public health campaign targets men who are less likely than women to visit the doctor. The billboard reads simply: “This year thousands of men will die from stubbornness.” In building a narrative, take a clear, honest look at your audience. If this example feels a little brash for your company culture, that’s okay. Just don’t play it safe on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.