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More Employees Look To Employers For Medical Advice

Do you work in HR? Are you tired of employees asking you questions about their health benefits, what's covered and what's not, or which in-network provider to choose?

Welcome to the age of Employer, M.D.

A nationwide survey conducted by non-profit organization National Business Group on Health finds more employees are seeking medical information from their employers instead of insurers and doctor's offices.

The survey was conducted in October 2010 and included 1,538 employees working for large companies with employer or union-based health coverage.

A full 75% of the employees surveyed utilized their employer as their primary resource for medical and health information last year. The survey also reveals that the percentage of employees using their employer as a medical resource has increased 54% since 2007. Wow.

But what about calling the insurer for more information? Apparently, employees don't want to go there: The percentage of employees seeking out their health insurer for information rose only 10% between 2007 and 2010, from 67% to 76%. In fact, nearly 70% of respondents (69%) viewed their employers as "completely, very or moderately trustworthy sources of health information."

I'm going to make a wild guess here that employees don't like navigating the voice jail of the typical insurer and, after being on hold for 10 to 25 minutes, dealing with the friendly automated voice on the other end who keeps saying, "I'm sorry, I couldn't understand your request. Could you please tell me again so that I may assist you?" The employee then yells slowly into his cell phone until the automated voice says in a semi-scolding tone, "I'm sorry, I'm still not understanding your request. Let me return you to the main menu, or you can try again later. Goodbye."

Before he knows it, the employee has wasted his whole lunch break trying to get a real person on the phone and he still doesn't have an answer to his health-related question. Employees come to realize that it's easier to walk down the hall and interrupt someone in the HR department, or someone in management. They'll know the answer; they deal with this stuff all the time, right?

I suspect the answer is really this simple. People are always looking for the path of least resistance.

The upside for employers? Web-savvy workers don't mind using health websites to find they information they need. So employers that haven't created an online reference page with links to relevant, easy-to-understand medical sites might want to think about it. A link a day could keep employees away.

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