Four tech trends in healthcare in 2017
Trend #2: Growth in consumer-facing technologies
Tools that provide consumers with cost information about healthcare are in greater demand for two reasons, says Morris, who notes that Deloitte is studying this behavior. For one, consumers are accustomed to an online retail experience where they can comparison shop across 10 online vendors in less than a minute if they want to buy a pair of Nike sneakers, for example. The second reason is, increasingly, consumers have high-deductible plans that can hold them responsible for $5,000 or more of their healthcare spending. From the consumer’s point of view, this is “their” money, so they want to ensure that they’re getting a good deal on their MRI or specialist visit or blood panel, he says. Morris, who prefers to use the more consumer-friendly “price” terminology—rather than “cost”—anticipates that providers will increasingly provide pricing for various healthcare services in 2017.
One such tool, the MyHealthcare cost tool, was developed by UnitedHealthcare about five years ago. Today, the tool covers 875 different services, which means that members have access to personalized estimates of the costs of care, says Craig Hankins, vice president of digital products at UnitedHealthcare.
One of the payer’s new initiatives is to integrate that cost information into members’ searches for individual providers. That means when a member searches for a particular physician, in addition to learning about their credentials and location, they’ll also learn how that physician compares to other specialists in terms of cost and quality.
If, for example, a member is experiencing knee pain, when they go into the search tool, they can find out about outpatient facilities, physical therapy, and compare physicians—and that includes information about the likelihood that the physician will order a lot of tests. Also included are consumer reviews from HealthGrades.
Members who use UnitedHealthcare’s transparency resources are more likely than non-users to save money and select high-quality healthcare providers, according to studies conducted by the payer, says a company spokesperson. The resources enable members to more frequently select high-quality healthcare providers across all specialties, including primary care physicians (7% more likely) and orthopedists (9% more likely). UnitedHealthcare members who use the transparency resources before receiving care pay, on average, 36% less than non-users, according to a 2015 claims analysis.