Health on the Go: New Tools are Helping Consumers Make Better Health Care Decisions

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

By: Colleen Van Ham, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of Illinois

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 Chicago are using online resources to comparison shop for health care services, much like they would airline tickets or electronics. According to a recent survey by UnitedHealthcare, 14 percent of respondents report using online resources to comparison shop for health care services. This number is likely to increase, given the popularity of mobile technology coupled with consumers taking a more active role in making health care decisions.

New online and mobile resources are helping people more easily anticipate and manage health care expenses, including providing consumers with quality and cost information for local care providers. One example is Health4Me, a free mobile app for iPhone and Android devices that is now available to everyone. Health4Me provides cost information for more than 520 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.

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.

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