The Communication Toolkit: Using Information to Get High-Quality Care

Key AIR Staff: Pam Dardess, M.P.H.

The Employee Health Communication Toolkit—a free, online resource that AIR developed with funding from the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF)—helps consumers find quality health care and make more informed care decisions. The toolkit contains materials and guidance for employers and other purchasers on how to communicate with consumers about health care quality and costs and lessons learned from an 18-month implementation and evaluation project.

The project goal was to develop research-based recommendations and materials to help employers and labor unions communicate with consumers about evidence-based health care decision-making—making health care decisions based on what is demonstrated to be effective—including cost effective—safe, and appropriate.

AIR used a rigorous, evidence-based approach to: assess workers’ current level of understanding of concepts in evidence-based health care; identify particular areas of misunderstanding or confusion; understand how workers think about evidence-based health care; and determine how receptive workers are to the idea of an employer promoting evidence-based health care.

The project included an environmental scan consisting of a literature review and interviews with experts in the field; formative research—15 key stakeholder interviews with union and non-union employers and four focus groups with a total of 34 consumers; developing and testing messages through 57 cognitive interviews with consumers and a web-based survey of union and non-union employers; a survey with 1,558 employees in collaboration with the National Business Group on Health; developing a web-based Communication Toolkit; and preparing a final report and presentation on key project findings for CHCF staff and the project advisory committee.

Project products included:

  • A collection of “workforce materials” that companies and unions can download and adapt for use in communicating with workers about evidence-based health care. These 14 documents cover four main topic areas: understanding the basics of health care quality, cost and quality, tips for getting good quality care, and help in using the internet to find health information.
  • A document that tells Toolkit users—employers and unions—what they need to know before using the workforce materials and points out the special features of the materials and explains how these features help address communication challenges. It also includes practical suggestions for communicating more effectively with employees about evidence-based concepts.
  • A report summarizing communication challenges identified in the research findings.


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