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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 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. New online and mobile resources arehelping people more easily anticipate and manage health care expenses, and providing consumers with quality and cost information for local care providers. Recently the Health Care Cost Institute, a national nonprofit focused on health care research, introduced, an online platform that provides all consumers with national and local cost information about common medical services.

Another resource is Health4Me, a free mobile app for iPhone and Android devices that is available to everyone. Health4Me provides cost information for more than 755 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 health plans have mobile apps that provide their customers with personalized price estimates based on actual contracted rates with health care providers and facilities. These 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.

Online comparison tools can also help people 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 anyone 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 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 fusion): $17,599-$59,509 (average: $38,554.00)

In this new era of health care, transparency and education can help consumers be more engaged in their health. Take a few minutes to download the Health4Me app, checkout, or log in to your health plan’s website and learn more about the tools 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.

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