By David Milich, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of South Texas
The health care system is rapidly evolving, with people increasingly paying for their own care and taking more control over decisions regarding that care.
As such, 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.
Consumers in San Antonio are using online resources to comparison shop for health care services, much like they would airline tickets or electronics. New online and mobile resources are making it easier to anticipate and manage health care expenses and providing consumers with quality and cost information for local care providers.
One such resource is Guroo.com, an online platform introduced recently by the non-profit Health Care Cost Institute, which provides 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 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, as well as 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 call back from a customer service representative.
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 to select high-quality health care providers across all specialties, including primary care physicians (7 percent more likely) and orthopedists (9 percent more likely).
Though there are significant price variations for health care services and procedures among different hospitals and doctors’ offices, 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 in the San Antonio metropolitan area and the range of cost health care providers charge:
- Knee MRI: $406 – $520
- Childbirth (non-Caesarean): $7,728 – $11,640
- Gallbladder Removal: $9,297 – $16,226
Providing transparent health care prices to consumers, healthcare 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 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 Guroo.com, 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.