A new regulation in national health care law requires private insurance companies and employers to provide consumers with a description of their policy’s medical coverage called a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC). The law will also provide consumers with access to a glossary of medical and insurance terms, along with side-by-side comparisons of how different insurance policies might handle a real life medical situation.
Insurance companies have taken steps of their own to endear themselves to patients. Offering incentive-based wellness plans to employers is something that increased interaction between consumers and insurance companies. Rewarding patients for healthy activities like reimbursing gym memberships has been commonplace among insurance companies. And organizations have discussed pushing these initiatives even further, such as placing patients on a diet and creating physical activity-based rewards system to make patients and providers more involved in individual health care.
Improving patient understanding and encouraging active participation in their own care via patient engagement has been a stated goal of HHS. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) within the HHS department hopes that health technology companies develop products that provide more information to patients. This desired public model is based on Blue Button, a patient engagement resource for veterans.
“Thanks to the health care law, Americans will now get clear, consistent and comparable information when shopping for health coverage,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a report on the regulation’s release.
Providing patients with the proper dose of information is vital to engagement, but an increase of patient education alone is not enough to assist patients or providers. Providing consumers with information that is either too technical or too simple can discourage them. Patients need to be presented with information in a personal and relatable context. Keeping patients informed throughout their medical experience, from insurance plan selection to treatment options, can be facilitated through careful dissemination of information.