A survey by UICI, a health savings account provider, indicates that consumers will not "shop" for health care online. Why is this interesting, let alone important? Because one of the fundamental tenets of Consumer Driven Health Care (CDHC) is that the consumer, well, drives the healthcare decision making process. He’s supposed to be involved, interested, and willing to invest his time and efforts in learning as much as possible about the costs and consequences of those decisions.
According to UICI, when it comes to car shopping, for example, 56% of shoppers consult the web for pricing and availability. And 44% of folks looking for a new computer also use the web to research their options.
On the other hand, only 22% of consumers use the web to choose new doctors, and even fewer (12%) of hospital patients used the Web to compare hospitals. It certainly isn’t for lack of resources: many carriers have web tools, and a lot of providers have websites chock full of helpful information.
Only a little more than a third of internet users said they were even aware that information comparing prices and quality of doctors is available online. And about a third also they were aware that this type of information is available about hospitals online.
Frankly, that’s pathetic. And no, I’m not blaming the consumer (well, not completely, anyway). It seems to me that if carriers are going to continue to push CDHC, and they are, then they’re going to have to do a better job of educating consumers about the resources that are available. And, of course, agents (this one included) could stand to put in more effort on that front, as well.
Of course, if one purchases such a plan, then one has already agreed to take a more proactive role in the health care process. This means taking the initiative in researching treatment and provider options and, whenever possible, treatment costs. It would be nice, for example, if Aetna expanded its transparency program. It would be nicer still if other carriers implemented their own.