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

September 11, 2014

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 consumers to have access to resources and services that help them make informed decisions about the quality and cost of their care, helping to protect both their health and pocketbook.

 

Consumers in Louisiana are using online resources to comparison shop for health care services, much like they 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 are helping people more easily anticipate and manage health care expenses, including providing consumers with quality and cost information for local care providers. One example is Health4Me, a free mobile app for iPhone and Android devices that is now available to everyone. Health4Me provides cost information for more than 520 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 provide their customers with personalized price estimates based on actual contracted rates with health care providers and facilities. These personalized resources can also give users 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.

 

There are 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.

 

Here are a few examples of medical services performed within 25 miles of New Orleans and the range of cost health care providers charge:

 

  • Knee MRI: $788-$869 (average: $828.50)

  • Childbirth: $7,692-$10,665 (average: $9,178.50)

  • Back surgery (lumbar: $17,599-$59,509 (average: $38,554.00)

 

In this new era of health care, transparency and education through technology can help consumers be more engaged in their health. 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.

 

These services are putting more relevant information at people’s fingertips and helping them make better care decisions regarding treatment options and prices.

 

Glen J. Golemi, president and CEO, UnitedHealthcare-Gulf States Region

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