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Computer maker launches online tools to promote health care consumerism

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ATLANTA—Providing tools that empower employees to become better health care consumers is critical to promoting consumerism.

In an effort to promote consumerism, Dell Inc. launched a variety of online tools to educate its employees on the true costs of health care and allow them to better manage their health, said Richard Felice, area vp, Dell Healthcare West, based in Chandler, Ariz.

The computer company provides, for example, a health care cost summary that details what employees pay for medical, prescription drugs and dental services. The summary outlines the employee's per paycheck contribution, the amount paid toward the deductible, and their copayment or coinsurance costs for the year.

"People really do see what health care costs at Dell," Mr. Felice said during the 19th annual National Managed Health Care Congress in Atlanta.

The summary also provides tips on how employees can more efficiently manage health care costs, such as taking advantage of a health care spending account to pay some out-of-pocket costs on a tax-free basis.

The company provides a Personal Health Manager tool to empower Dell employees and their families to make the best health care decisions, he said. The tool imports records from doctors, health plans, hospitals, laboratories and pharmacies. It translates procedure codes into common and easily understood terms, replacing unintelligible benefits statements, he said. "We take them and convert them into English," Mr. Felice said.

For example, the medications page in the Personal Health Manager tool lists the name and dosage of every drug prescribed to the employee and family members, who can also check for any potentially dangerous drug interactions by simply clicking a button.

The tool also allows participation in live nurse chats in which employees can describe their symptoms and ask questions about health care concerns.

"Dell has enabled me to have resources and that's what companies need to do," Mr. Felice said.

More than 50% of Dell's employees use the Personal Health Manager tool, he said. "If people didn't do it, it was because of inertia," he said.

Dell also provides a "Click 'n Learn" library where employees and their families can access information on getting the right health care at the right price, getting the most benefit from medication and getting answers to urgent health questions. The library provides information in both video and printable format.