Health Literacy

Managing chronic health conditions can be difficult when patients have low health literacy. Navigating and understanding a complex health care system is challenging. With the right training, health care professionals can communicate with patients more appropriately depending on their health literacy level.2

What is Health Literacy?

The CDC has defined Health literacy as:

  1. Personal health literacy: the degree to which individuals can find, understand and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.1
  2. Organizational health literacy: the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.1

Health literacy is simply your ability to understand information about your body and health.5 Based on these definitions, people and organizations can use their health literacy skills to improve the health of their communities.1

Low Health Literacy Factors

Low health literacy leads to communication barriers between patients and their healthcare providers. It also results in a variety of negative health outcomes for patients.4 A few factors that lead to low health literacy are:

  • Education4
  • Age: on average, adults aged 65 and older have lower health literacy than adults under 65.4
  • Poverty4
  • Access to resources such as technology5
  • Language5
  • Culture5
  • Having a health condition that requires complex self-care.5

Why Health Literacy is Important

Understanding health information and services affects your health outcomes. Your level of health literacy determines your ability to navigate through the healthcare system, utilize preventative services and share your personal information with healthcare providers.5 Furthermore, having good health literacy skills enables you to:

  • Understand the choices you have about treatments, doctors and other items related to your condition.5
  • Stick to your treatment plan.5
  • Answer questions about your health conditions.5
  • Decide which services and options are best for you.5

Steps to Improve Your Health Literacy

If you would like to improve your health literacy:

  1. Ask questions: Do not be afraid to ask your healthcare professional questions. Explain that you are having a hard time understanding, they will be happy to help.5
  2. Ask for handouts: Handouts or other materials are helpful at explaining complicated information.5
  3. Do not believe everything that you read on the internet: Not all medical information websites are reviewed by experts. A good way to check if a website is reputable is to make sure the information is reviewed, confirmed and supported by different organizations.5
  4. Repeat what your doctor tells you in your own words: This will give you an opportunity to clarify anything that you misunderstood or discover anything you misheard.5

Tria Health & Health Literacy:

Tria Health is a no cost benefit available through select members’ health plans. Tria Health’s Pharmacy Advocate Program offers one-on-one, private consultations with a Tria Health Pharmacist. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. Tria Health will assist you in identifying any possible drug interactions or savings opportunities! Your pharmacist will work with you and your doctor(s) to ensure the intended outcomes from your medications are being received. Tria Health is here to help patients navigate their way through the multifaceted process of attaining care and properly utilizing their benefits. Our pharmacists take the time to make sure patients understand their conditions and how to effectively manage them.

Patient Success Story: Tria Triumph

Data does not lie; the real challenge lies when patients do not understand their data. Health literacy is key in this Tria Triumph.

A patient with diabetes had a consultation with one of our pharmacists. Her blood sugars were all over the place and she was feeling down. Our pharmacist uncovered that this patient was not taking her medications correctly and was also using an expired insulin pen. She did not completely understand her diagnosis, or the purpose of her medications.

Our pharmacist took the time to educate her on what diabetes is and how it affects her body. Additionally, our pharmacist recommended she talk with her doctor about an easier medication regimen.

Now this patient feels fantastic! Her doctor accepted the medication changes, and she is taking her medications as our pharmacist advised. Her blood sugar readings are excellent, and she feels better.

Because of the Tria Health program, this patient understands her diagnosis, knows how to effectively manage it and has the confidence to discuss outcomes with her providers.

Questions?

Contact the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742

Sources:

  1. What Is Health Literacy? | Health Literacy | CDC
  2. Health Literacy | Official web site of the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (hrsa.gov)
  3. Health Literacy | National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  4. Health Literacy | Healthy People 2020
  5. Health Literacy: Why it’s Important and How to Improve it (breastcancer.org)

Chronic Conditions and COVID-19: Going Beyond Handwashing

Webinar Information

Managing chronic conditions has always been critical in regards to improving employee health and reducing healthcare costs. With the emergence of the COVID-19 health crisis, it’s more important than ever as patients with chronic conditions have a higher risk of complications with COVID-19. With a multitude of telehealth resources available, discover how pharmacists can make a significant impact on patients with chronic conditions.

Speakers:
Jessica Lea, CEO, Pharm.D., EMBA, BCPP
Jason Grace, Director of Clinical Services, Pharm.D.
Austin Morgan, Pharm.D.
Date: April 23, 2020
Time: 11:00AM – 12:00PM CDT

Positivity During a Pandemic

It seems like every day we are inundated with COVID-19 information.  While important, it can be overwhelming and depressing.  For people with chronic conditions, it can be downright scary!  Managing chronic conditions is more important than ever. Tria Health’s pharmacists have been hard at work, providing care to patients with chronic conditions, helping them through these trying times. Here are some recent patient success stories.

Allergies or COVID-19? 

It can be difficult individuals to understand the differences between allergies, asthma or COVID-19 symptoms. Knowing how to distinguish the condition will help in expediting treatment. For help understanding the differences between symptoms, see this Respiratory Illness Chart.

Tria Triumph

A patient had allergies, high blood pressure, and was struggling with her asthma. She couldn’t afford her inhaler and was terrified to leave her house due to COVID-19. Tria Health assisted the patient with getting the medication cost reduced and coordinated with the patient’s doctor and pharmacy. Tria was able to get the medication sent directly to the patient, reducing her risk of exposure. Tria was there to answer all her questions and concerns and educate her on the difference between respiratory illnesses.

Social Distancing Reducing Visits

For some, going into the doctor’s office was the only way of receiving affordable medications through samples or trial packets. Due to COVID-19, some people haven’t been able to safely leave their homes or afford their medications.

Tria Triumph

A patient with heart failure could not afford one of their critical medications. He was going to the cardiologist office every 2-3 weeks to get samples. His Tria Health pharmacist was able to sign him up for a manufacturer coupon at an affordable copay. Tria Health also had the prescription sent to a pharmacy with a drive through pick up to allow for appropriate social distancing for this high-risk individual.

Getting Diagnosed with COVID-19

If you have a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, it is important to take proper precautions to protect yourself and those around you. To learn the steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick, click here.

Tria Triumph

A patient called the Tria Health Help Desk with questions and wanting information regarding their recent diagnosis of COVID-19. Tria helped educate the patient with quarantine recommendations, along with encouragement to keep a temperature log. If the patient started having breathing issues, they were instructed to go to the emergency room and to call ahead before going. Simply talking to a Tria Health pharmacist and having them provide a detailed overview of next steps helped put the patient at ease.

New Habits

While it’s important to continue your current treatment regimen to effectively control your conditions, now might be a great opportunity to instill some healthy habits.

Tria Triumph

During a smoking consult, a patient was struggling with anxiety and feeling completely out of control with the pandemic. She was not seeing any progress with quitting and was starting to feel down on herself. Tria’s pharmacist worked with the patient to refocus her efforts and make a list of things holding her back. During a follow up consult, the patient had cleaned out her smoking area, found new healthy habits, and started organizing her day. In addition, the patient is wearing a mask more often, which was also keeping her from smoking. Due to the support from the Tria Health pharmacist, the patient now has a happy place to enjoy the sunshine and her daughter.

Image Source: CDC

Sources:

  1. https://community.aafa.org/blog/coronavirus-2019-ncov-flu-what-people-with-asthma-need-to-know
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

Do Risk Reduction Programs Work?

Image Source: iStock.com

For self-insured employers, heart disease and diabetes are considered significant hindrances in the effort to improve employee health while reducing overall healthcare costs. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women and about 9.4% of Americans are diagnosed with diabetes. In order to control cost and help employees, employers typically look to disease state management programs. While many of these programs seem beneficial, the durability and long-term effects have limited evaluation.

What is a disease management program?

Disease management programs (DMPs) are structured treatment plans that aim to help people better manage their chronic disease and to maintain and improve quality of life. DMPs are also run with the general goal of improving medical treatment in the long term. Disease management programs also aim to improve cooperation between the various specialists and institutions that provide care for a patient, such as family and specialist doctors, hospitals and rehabilitation centers.1

What are the long-term outcomes of a DMP?2

A recent study published in the NCBI had the main objective of assessing the 5-year health, economic, and quality-of-life patient outcomes of an employer-sponsored disease state management program. The program included one-on-one appointments with a pharmacist that included medication therapy management, implementation and adherence to 7 personalized lifestyle medicine programs (ie, physical activity, healthy eating, stress management, restorative sleep, moderate alcohol consumption, tobacco abstinence/cessation, and weight control), and chronic disease care coordination practices.

The results of the study identified:

  • Decreased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels: 96.71 mg/dL vs 84.83 mg/dL, respectively
  • Increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels: 39.32 mg/dL vs 46.12 mg/dL
  • Decreased systolic blood pressure: 132.04 mm Hg vs 123.63 mm Hg
  • Average exercise time increased: 50 minutes weekly vs 156.04 minutes weekly
  • The combined healthcare and productivity return on investment for the program at 5 years was $9.64 for every $1 invested.

What is the difference between a Disease Management program and the Chronic Condition Management Program offered by Tria Health?

Tria Health started as a disease management program and has its foundation there, but many disease management programs are focused one particular disease state versus the program offered by Tria Health which is patient-centered. Most patients have more than one chronic condition, so taking a ‘patient-centered’ approach improves overall care and costs.

Interested in improving your employee’s health?

Tria Health offers Chronic Condition Management through our Pharmacy Advocate Program. Clinical Pharmacists provide one-on-one telephonic counseling for members and are their personal advocate to help them navigate through the health care system. Through reviewing a member’s medications and lifestyle, including their sleep habits, Tria Pharmacists can make recommendations that will help control their chronic conditions and help them feel better!

Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279412/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6207306/

Mental Health and Chronic Condition Management

Sad man sitting in a corner
Image Source: Fernando @cferdo/Unsplash.com

According to a recent study published in Psychological Medicine, mental health disorders affect 44 million American adults. This includes a variety of conditions, including depression and anxiety. It is critical for organizations to provide support for mental health, not only for the overall well-being of their employees but also to help manage their overall health care cost.

Employers Should Invest in Mental Health Because They Bear 50% of the Cost

Including mental health services in a comprehensive benefits package is a smart decision for all employers. By investing early, employers can attract new talent and offset some additional costs that are associated with unmanaged mental health. Almost 43% of persons with severe depressive symptoms reported serious difficulties in work, home and social activities.1 A 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, estimates depression costs the U.S. economy $210 billion annually; employers bear 50% of that cost.

Patients with Chronic Conditions and Depression are 2x Less Adherent

Chronic conditions can be a lot to manage at an individual level. It’s not surprising that a percentage of those who are diagnosed with a chronic condition also experience some form of depression or anxiety. Studies show that people with diabetes have a greater risk of depression than people without diabetes.2 This connection is significant when it comes to adherence.  Results from 47 independent samples showed that depression was significantly associated with non-adherence to the diabetes regimen. In addition, the estimated odds of a depressed patient being non-adherent are 1.76 times the odds of a non-depressed patient, across 31 studies and 18,245 participants.3

Provide a Path to Care – Connect Employees to Providers

Employers can make accessing a mental or behavioral healthcare provider easier by offering a program that helps connect employees with providers who are in-network, vetted for quality of services and accepting new patients.4 They can also provide assistance by making sure employees know what programs and benefits are available. It’s one thing to offer mental health services to employees, but it’s equally important that everyone is familiar with and know how to access them.

Tria Health and Mental Health

Many patients decide to take medications in order to effectively manage their mental health. There are a variety of mental health medications currently on the market, ranging from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to atypical antidepressants. Because there isn’t a test to measure to brain chemicals, it can be a trial and error process to identify the best treatment for a patient. If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one, private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. If you’re interested in exploring medication treatments for mental health, Tria’s pharmacist will be able to provide you with recommendations.

Questions?

Call the Tria Health Help Desk: 1.888.799.8742

Source:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db172.htm
  2. Diabetes Care. 2008 Dec; 31(12): 2398–2403. doi: 10.2337/dc08-1341
  3. J Gen Intern Med. 2011 Oct;26(10):1175-82. doi: 10.1007/s11606-011-1704-y. Epub 2011 May 1.
  4. https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/increasing-employee-access-to-mental-health-benefits?tag=00000151-16d0-def7-a1db-97f024be0000