Health on the Go: New tools are helping consumers make better health care decisions

online healthcare tools

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.

Jason Witten’s Score Foundation & UHC bring Play.Move.SCORE Youth Program to Oak Cliff

Jason Witten Foundation

Dallas Cowboys All-Pro tight end Jason Witten and his SCORE Foundation have teamed up again with UnitedHealthcare to fight childhood obesity and encourage healthy lifestyles in North Texas – this time at the Oak Cliff Boys & Girls Club. The kids got to enjoy a celebratory lunch with one of the Cowboys’ most beloved players.

The program partners unveiled a newly-remodeled teen activity room at the Oak Cliff Boys & Girls Club in February, which will house the Play.Move.SCORE. youth health and fitness program. The teen room received a full makeover, including new paint, furniture, flooring and blinds. The room is also equipped with a new sound and Xbox Connect gaming system to encourage the teens to have fun and get moving.

“UnitedHealthcare is grateful for the opportunity to work with Jason Witten, the SCORE Foundation and the Oak Cliff Boys & Girls Club to makeover the teen room and enhance Club facilities,” said Tom Quirk, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of Texas. “We hope club members will be inspired to take charge of their health and well-being and learn that being fit can be fun.”

Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation and UnitedHealthcare launched the Play.Move.SCORE. program in 2010. Since that time, the partners have donated a virtual personal training computer system, exercise and sports equipment and Healthy Edge® Plus, a software program that tracks kids’ weight, body fat and body mass index (BMI) using wireless scales. Boys & Girls Club members have participated in Fitness Games and a Top Chef Healthy Snack competition, as well as a curriculum that teaches them how to make healthy choices each day.

The SCORE Foundation and UnitedHealthcare also sponsor Blessings in a Backpack, a weekly program that provides health snacks for the weekend.

“I am thrilled to continue this partnership with UnitedHealthcare to keep kids healthy in the Metroplex,” Witten said. “Staying active and developing healthy habits is important for teens and the new activity room offers fun and creative ways to help keep them active and energetic all year long.”

UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation unveils new inspirational children’s book to help families in need

oh-book-cover-3

Imagine the chance to foster a love of reading with your children while helping to support medical grants for someone else’s child.

That’s just what parents and grandparents can do, with the release of Oliver & Hope’s Superhero Saturday, a new book unveiled at the North American International Toy Fair in New York.

The third book of the award-winning Oliver & Hope™ series, Oliver & Hope’s Superhero Saturday features Oliver™ the bear, Hope™ the butterfly and Millie™ the barn owl, who join their friend Charlotte the fox on a superhero adventure.

The beloved characters put on their hero capes and go on an exciting journey into their imaginations, where they pretend to save a pirate ship, rescue a hot air balloon and face an evil mud monster. But when they discover their friend Chewie™ the English bulldog really needs their help, the friends must work together to become real heroes.

The book, which is geared toward children ages 3-8, combines an entertaining story with engaging images that foster the imagination, while teaching kids subtle lessons about the power of friendship and resiliency. Written by Meg Cadts and beautifully illustrated by Samantha Fitch, the book is a project of the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF). Meg Cadts is actually the pen name for a group of UHCCF writers and contributors.

This and the other two books of the Oliver & Hope series are available through uhccf.org/shop for $13.95 each. Proceeds from the Oliver & Hope books and plush toys fund UHCCF grants that help families pay for children’s medical expenses that are not covered, or not fully covered, by their parents’ commercial health insurance.

In 2014 alone, UHCCF awarded medical grants worth an estimated $5.4 million to more than 2,000 children across the United States.

“We created the Oliver & Hope series to provide joy and inspiration for children.  We are grateful to have received such positive feedback on the books, especially since the proceeds from the books and toys are helping children access medical care that will improve their health and quality of life,” said UHCCF President Matt Peterson.

“Oliver and Hope’s Superhero Saturday” is available at www.uhccf.org/shop