Are you ready to shop … for your health care?
The health care industry is moving toward a consumer retail model in which people can shop for care much as they shop for other goods and services. The changing market is due in part to rising costs – the burden of which have shifted from employers to employees. Increasingly, consumers are responsible for the costs of care and for making informed decisions about it.
Like other industries, like travel and finance, technology and online tools are helping consumers navigate this new landscape. Here are some of the tools helping consumers save money, increase value, and become better-informed patients.
Doctor finders that include quality information. Technology companies and health insurers have launched provider search engines that offer biographical information about providers, including details about the quality of hospitals with which providers are affiliated and the quality of the providers’ medical schools, internships and residencies. These also mention awards issued by quality-assessment organizations as well as sanctions imposed by authorities. Some organizations even offer patient-written reviews of providers.
Cost-estimation tools. Effective cost calculators take into account the price that a given provider has negotiated with the individual consumer’s insurer as well as the details of the consumer’s plan of benefits; for example, deductible and copay amounts. This gives the consumer an estimate of the actual, out-of-pocket costs associated with choosing a specific provider to perform a specific procedure.
Wearable technology and apps that help track conditions such as pregnancy and diabetes. There are more than 97,000 different digital health apps and devices on the market. In April 2014, Amazon decided the category was big enough to warrant a marketplace of its own on the Amazon storefront. IHS Global Insights estimates that wearable technology will be a $30 billion industry by 2018.
What makes wearable devices fascinating—and promising—is the data they collect. Eventually, personalized health data gathered via wearable devices will help physicians better tailor care to the individual patient. Some consumers will resist extensive monitoring; moreover, there are valid concerns about data security and privacy. Nonetheless, the long-term benefits of taking an active approach to one’s health remain compelling: reduced costs, improved quality of care and better population health.
No doubt, more tools and technologies are coming to health care in the coming years. Electronic health records, video-based appointments and better access to pricing will open up the market to bring convenience – and consumerism – to medicine.
Want to read more about the emerging health care marketplace? Read our white paper, “The Health Care Marketplace Is Here.”