Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Health on the Go: New Tools are Helping Consumers Make Better Health Care Decisions

The health care system is rapidly evolving. People are paying more personally for their health care and taking more control of decisions regarding the care they receive.

Simply put, it has become increasingly important for you to have access to resources and services that help you make informed decisions about the quality and cost of the health care you receive, helping to protect both your health and pocketbook.

Online resources have paved the way to better information which leads to better decisions. Today you can comparison shop for health care services, much like you would airline tickets or electronics. According to a recent survey by UnitedHealthcare, 14 percent of respondents report using online resources to comparison shop for health care services. This number is likely to increase, given the popularity of mobile technology coupled with consumers taking a more active role in making health care decisions.

New online and mobile resources can help you more easily anticipate and manage health care expenses. One example is Health4Me, a free mobile app for iPhone and Android devices. Health4Me provides cost information for more than 635 medical services, including MRI, knee replacement and childbirth. The app also enables people to locate nearby health care providers, and convenience care, urgent care and emergency care facilities.

Some insurance carriers have mobile apps that can provide you with personalized price estimates based on actual contracted rates with health care providers and facilities. These personalized resources can also give you 24/7 access to registered nurses, access to personal health benefits information and ID card, and the ability to receive a callback from a customer service representative.

Greater use of medical price transparency services could help make health care more affordable. Providing health care prices to consumers, health care professionals and other stakeholders could reduce U.S. health care spending by more than $100 billion during the next decade, according to a 2014 report by the Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center.

In addition, the use of online comparison tools can also help you select high-quality health care providers,
according to a new study from UnitedHealthcare.
The study found that users of myHealthcare Cost Estimator™, an online and mobile quality and price comparison service available to all consumers through the Health4Me app, were more likely than nonusers to select high-quality health care providers across all specialties, including primary care physicians (7 percent more likely) and orthopedists (9 percent more likely).

There are also significant price variations for health care services and procedures at hospitals and doctors’ offices nationwide, yet research has shown that higher-priced care providers do not necessarily deliver higher-quality care or better health outcomes.

In this new era of health care, transparency and education through technology can help you get better control your health and the cost of care. Take a few minutes to download the Health4Me app, or log in to your insurance provider’s website and learn more about the tools and services that can help you make the best health care decisions for you and your family.

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