What you need to know

How do I implement a CDHP in my organization?

Introducing the CDHP solution starts at the top. Organizational leadership should be educated early, and the communication plan should include Human Resources and your Management Team. Building enthusiasm and esprit de corps depends on getting these groups onboard before introducing your plan to the other employees. If leadership seems relaxed, comfortable, and committed, employees sense this and are more likely to support the plan.


Organizational Leadership

Enthusiasm for the CDHP needs to start at the top, so the first people to engage, educate, and empower are those at the most senior level. Senior level leaders should be educated about the principles and mechanics of CDHPs so that they are able to instill understanding and enthusiasm in those with whom they will be communicating. When management is introduced to the CDHP solution, the enthusiasm of the senior leaders will inspire them to support and champion the strategy.

An informed and excited senior leadership team means enthusiastic managers, which means enthusiastic employees. If senior leaders aren’t excited about the plan, why would anyone else be? Start at the top, and by the time the information has reached your employees, they will embrace the CDHP solution.

Human Resources

Your HR team is critical to the successful implementation of the plan—they will need to feel comfortable with their understanding of the CDHP. Getting them onboard early by working with your benefits advisor and insurance provider can set the tone for the entire transition. Having invested years in the previous plan’s administration, HR personnel need to be convinced that it is worth the initial effort of switching from a traditional managed care plan to a CDHP. Once HR is convinced, they could be your most ardent supporters.

Initially, HR may see the CDHP solution as a lot more work, and the education challenges more daunting. As the plan administrators and the liaison to your employees, HR must have the most complete understanding of the CDHP. You must not underestimate their effect on your staff—if HR is confused and unconvinced that these changes are for the best, employees will be hesitant to even consider a new health plan offering. When your HR team is informed and confident, their attitude will help your employees feel much more comfortable with the change.

Mandatory Management and Employee Education

Most employees have a more casual approach to getting information and will go to their managers when they have concerns. Managers must be able to handle questions and discuss the advantages of CDHPs when they are approached for advice. Their comfort level and visible support are critical to the successful implementation of these plans.

Mandatory management educational meetings serve to help management learn about CDHP and to coach them on how to pass their knowledge on to employees. Managers will be able to address many concerns directly, but it’s a good idea to have HR prepare a package for managers that includes a list of helpful websites, pamphlets or guidebooks, and other resources such as the CDHP Coach. If a manager can’t resolve an employee’s question, they can consult additional resources. If they still don’t have an answer, they can always refer the employee to HR, who should be both willing and able to help. In turn, HR should be able to lean on your benefits advisor for hands-on assistance and support.

Once you have senior leaders, management, and HR onboard, it’s time to introduce your employees to the CDHP. Because consumers tend to stick to what they know and what they are comfortable with, you have to ensure that your employees are not only exposed to meaningful information about CDHPs, but that they absorb it. Sending out a communication or a brochure isn’t enough. Few people will actually read it, and printed information isn’t particularly persuasive these days. It’s hard to imagine anyone becoming convinced to make a change this big based on a few bullet points, especially if there’s no one around to address their concerns and questions.

Mandatory employee education sessions will ensure that your employees are exposed to information about CDHPs in a dynamic and effective way. And leveraging the power of the CDHP Coach will enhance your efforts to keep that learning ongoing.

Face-to-face communication is the most effective way to get people engaged and excited about a new product. In a group environment, employees can ask questions as they come up, and everyone in the group benefits from the answers. Once employees become familiar with the basics, they can weigh the advantages and disadvantages of CDHPs against those of their current health plan. This will enable your employees to make a decision that is more informed than simply choosing the option they know over the one they don’t. The benefit to you, the employer, is that educating all of your employees at once saves both time and money, and increases the probability that your employees will choose the CDHP solution.

Communication and Education

Every company should have a communication and education strategy tailored specifically to its unique needs. Understand who your target audience is—who makes up the majority of your staff? Consider the average age, education level, and family size of your employees to determine what sort of approach might work best for most of them, but also incorporate options for individual learning and communication styles. By pairing a master strategy geared to your general audience with special options for the needs of individuals, you ensure that all of your employees are included.

When sharing information, keep it simple and be frank. Don’t try to cover everything at once. The first step is to explain the reasons for adopting a CDHP. Describe these reasons and provide specific examples to illustrate why CDHPs make sense for most employers and your company. Start by explaining the company’s unique health risk issues. What problems and risk issues plague your employees as a general population, and what health issues do they risk developing as a result of workplace and lifestyle habits? Use detailed reports from your carrier or benefits advisor to support this information. Illustrate where health dollars are being consistently spent, explain the factors that have been driving costs up, and show how that creates a hardship for everyone.

Provide examples of hypothetical consumers who suffer from the top three health problems prevalent in your employee population and compare their healthcare out-of-pocket expenses as CDHP members to those of a traditional health plan subscriber with the same health issues. It’s the most effective way to portray similarities and differences between the CDHP solution and traditional healthcare plans. Keep it simple, make it real, and wherever possible, make it personal.


Until employees have a firm grasp of how CDHPs work, it’s almost impossible to have too many examples. Create a scenario that your employees can relate to. Use real-life examples of people accessing the healthcare system and generating claims so your employees can see how the healthcare transaction process works and how to use their healthcare account and health insurance plan to pay for their medical expenses.

To be as effective as possible, the examples should include details about how much typical procedures cost and how they are billed, the process for payment, and how these costs affect the funds in the consumer’s healthcare account. Examples might illustrate how accounts are created for employees, how contributions are made to those accounts, and how much value or equity might roll over in a typical year. The more varied the examples, the more people will relate to them, so include examples of people with different healthcare conditions, expenses, and funds available for use. You can ask your Benefits Advisor and health plan for assistance with these educational tools.

Various Media

Everyone absorbs information differently, so it’s important to present employees with a variety of media to help them learn about CDHPs. Face-to-face communication has been proven to be the most effective way to disperse information, but your communication strategy shouldn’t end there. Some people can’t process information as quickly as it comes in a meeting, so they might need resources to take away with them, just like the CDHP Coach. Others like to conduct their own research, and some might want to take even more materials home to show their families.

To cater to your employees’ individual needs, a variety of communication methods is encouraged.

  • Face-to-face: Personal communication is central to CDHP education and this part of the communication plan should never be overlooked. Employees can ask for clarification, examples, or further information and get immediate results.
  • Print: Brochures, pamphlets, and guidebooks can be effective. Your employees will use them to remind themselves of any details they might have forgotten during the meeting, and can take them home to share with partners and families.
  • Websites: Defining terms with the click of a mouse and following links to other online resources can be useful when learning about a new subject. Ask your facilitator to recommend a few helpful websites that you can share with your employees.
  • Webinars: Many people learn better from electronic media. They like to pause when they want, look things up when they are lost, and access material from anywhere. A narrated PowerPoint presentation can be effective for people with this learning style. If you have access to a webinar presentation from your Benefits Advisor or your insurer, make it available to your employees.

Before you select the media you will use for your employee education meetings, survey your employees about their preferred type of media so your benefits advisor and/or insurer can cater to their requests. Consumers usually like to have independent access to information before making big decisions, so the ability to visit an Internet resource or peruse a folder of helpful printouts might be the difference between reluctant and convinced employees.

seek feedback

You can’t effectively tailor a program for your staff if you don’t know what they want, so throughout the educational process, ask which aspects of the communication and education program are working for them and which aren’t. Consistent with CDHP philosophy, encourage employee involvement and independent decision making and ask them to provide feedback to you, your Benefits Advisor, and your insurer on ways to improve communication and education.

It’s likely that many problems can be solved quickly. For example, if people complain that the meeting facilitator isn’t leaving enough time for questions, the problem can be addressed right away. Even if the issue can’t be fixed immediately—perhaps because there is a lack of resources on a particular subject and those resources have to be found or created—knowing that there is a problem means it can be addressed in time for the next open enrollment period, when educational meetings will be conducted for all employees

Don’t be discouraged if your employees don’t show immediate excitement about CDHPs—it may take time. People who have used a particular health insurance plan for most of their lives aren’t likely to abandon it overnight. Be prepared to face initial skepticism and a lot of questions before employees come to trust the CDHP solution. View it as an opportunity to provide education and information that will remove their doubts and help them transition in a positive way.

Compare & Contrast Plans

Although the main purpose of the educational meetings is to inform your employees about CDHPs, it is  also a good idea to make sure they fully understand the insurance plan to which they currently subscribe.  With most traditional health insurance plans, the decision-making power is in the hands of their doctor or insurance company. Over time, members get used to the co-pay structure without really knowing how the transaction side of healthcare works. Without knowledge of plan mechanics, how can your employees compare their current insurance plan to a CDHP?

The first step is to clarify how traditional managed care plans work, how much services cost on average, how co-pays shield customers from the actual cost of care, and why premiums are rising faster than overall inflation. Make sure that your staff understands that sustained cost increases will cause them and the companies they work for to end up paying higher premiums and have less control over where their healthcare dollars are spent. Once they understand the facts, introduce them to the tools that will help them compare plans. These should be explained in simple terms, with the help of examples. Equipped with this knowledge and these tools, your employees will be able to compare all the aspects of CDHPs to those of their current plan.

Provide Post-meeting Resources

The educational process doesn’t end when the meetings are over. Questions will occur to people after the meetings, particularly as they generate their first claims. To provide employees with the support they’ll need, it will be important to have continued access to CDHP resources and extra printed materials available at your workplace.

Again, nothing takes the place of face-to-face communication. There should be someone available onsite to answer any questions that may arise during the employee research and evaluation process. Ideally, it should be a member of your HR team; someone with whom your employees are familiar and comfortable, and someone who is passionate and committed to the transition to a CDHP.

Coaches' Takeaway

Implementing a CDHP entails a well thought-out, detailed plan of action that must focus on communication and education. An effective strategy will facilitate a plan that will help everyone in your organization become comfortable with the philosophy, mechanics, and language of a CDHP—learning it is a process.

Tools & Resources

CDHPCoach’s Storage Facility, where the Coach has organized and compiled a vast amount of tools and resources for you to access.


Housed here are key components and information within the book, Bend the Healthcare Trend which was the impetus behind the CDHPCoach.


What you need to know