SOURCE: National Business Group on Health

December 05, 2007 13:00 ET

Doctor's Word Not Enough for Employees Facing Treatment Decisions, National Business Group on Health Survey Finds

Younger Workers' Attitudes Differ From Older Workers

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - December 5, 2007) - Although doctors offices are the most widely used source for health and medical information, 9 in 10 people dealing with a health care treatment decision prefer to consult additional sources beyond what they hear from their doctor, according to a new survey of U.S. workers on health care decision-making released today by the National Business Group on Health, a non-profit association of 288 large U.S. companies.

Although the majority of survey respondents classified themselves as being in either good (41%) or very good (39%) health, 11% of respondents rated themselves in fair/poor health and about half of respondents have a chronic health condition requiring regular medical care, such as high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or depression.

"Patients are often faced with daunting choices when confronted with a health treatment decision," said Helen Darling, President of the National Business Group on Health. "In many cases, employers can help their workers become more engaged consumers by providing access to trustworthy, authoritative sources of medical information."

Sources of Medical Information

In the past two years, nearly three in four survey respondents (72%) have turned to their doctor's office for health information, followed by Internet web sites (68%), their health plan (67%), friends and family (66%), magazine/news articles (61%), Rx package inserts (59%) and their employer (54%). However, more than half (53%) agree that the medical information available is often too difficult for the average person to understand. Yet, a similar number (54%) feel that the complexity of medicine is no excuse for a person to blindly trust that their doctor knows what is best.

The survey found that six in ten (60%) employees have not seen any health care quality comparison information. Among those who have seen such information in the past 12 months, more than half did not actually use that information to select a plan or provider.

"It's important that employees be given understandable medical information and options to make important treatment decisions and improve their lifestyles. Companies are starting to provide their employees with discounts off their share of health insurance premiums for healthy lifestyles and participating in programs that help reduce their risk factors for illness or disabilities, such high cholesterol or obesity," said Darling.

Younger Workers Differ From Older Workers

Younger workers have markedly different attitudes toward treatment, product information, and insurance costs than older workers. The older population is more open to a new treatment than the younger age groups. For those under age 50, there is a strong preference for the well-established treatment (45%) compared to the new treatment (25%). For those age 50 or older, there is almost an even split, as 36% prefer the established treatment and 35% prefer the new treatment. And, as age increases, the chance of finding your own friends/family to be trustworthy declines, with a sharp difference between those age 60-69 (35%) and those under 30 (64%).

The survey also found that frequent usage of consumer product information declines with age. Just over half (52%) of those under age 30 use the information often or very often, compared to just 25% of those age 60-69. Nearly one half (47%) of those under age 30 agreed that treatments that work best usually cost more, while 23% of those 60+ years agree. One-third of those under age 30 agreed that if insurance covers care, patients don't need to be concerned about costs, versus 14% of those 60+ years.

"Experts agree that consumers have to be actively engaged in maintaining their own health if they are to avoid problems, be stabilized as well as possible, or get better as soon as possible," said Darling. "Our survey demonstrates that, contrary to past research that portrayed a more passive consumer who relied on doctors alone, employees of large employers, and especially younger ones, understand that they need to play a more active role in controlling their own health. They are also seeking out more research evidence about treatments and getting information to make wise decisions. All of this is good news for employees, employers and for the nation's health care system."

About the Survey

The national online survey was conducted in September 2007 by Mathew Greenwald & Associates on behalf of the National Business Group on Health. A total of 1,558 randomly selected workers participated in the survey. To participate, workers had to be between the ages of 22 and 69, covered by health insurance, and currently work for an employer with at least 2,000 employees.

About the National Business Group on Health

The National Business Group on Health is the nation's only non-profit, membership organization of large employers devoted exclusively to finding innovative and forward-thinking solutions to their most important health care and related benefits issues. The Business Group identifies and shares best practices in health benefits, disability, health and productivity, related paid time off and work/life balance issues. Business Group members provide health coverage for more than 50 million U.S. workers, retirees and their families. For more information about the Business Group, visit

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