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Patients need to act more like customers

Posted Sep 09 2009 10:38pm

Every day people make purchasing decisions based on firsthand knowledge of price, quality and service.   We do this all the time. You might not realize this, but consumers apply this behavior every time they purchase groceries, books, automobiles, and electronics and even when they book travel reservations.  Consumers can make informed purchasing decisions because they have access to meaningful tools and data that enable them to comparison shop and find the best value.


In the health care industry, consumers should be able to easily navigate through treatment and provider options, so they can research the appropriate quality and price information for needed services.  If we engage consumers in the health care decision making process, people will act more responsible.  I also believe our health care system should include programs that encourage accountability for providers, patients (consumers) and health plans.


The good news is health insurers are making progress in this direction.  Some of the larger health plans are finally accepting the fact that their members should be treated like customers and they are working to provide their members with meaningful tools because they realize this is “good customer service.”  What’s very interesting is that empowering their members to act more like customers benefits all the stake holders. 


Over the past month, I have reviewed price transparency tools offered my some of the major health insurers including Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana, Regence and United Healthcare.  The tools are designed for members of the health plans and attempt to deliver some price and quality transparency, to help members make informed choices.  It’s definitely a step in the right direction but there is a lot of room for improvement.    We are all pioneers in this area and as the transparency tools evolve, consumers can expect to see some innovative, decision-making tools to help them make informed choices – before visiting a provider. 


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