Patients with comprehensive private health insurance coverage often do not pay full charges because insurance companies negotiate better payment rates for their policy holders. For the consumer shopping for healthcare, the first challenge is the right health plan and coverage, but consumers are now bearing more of the cost.
The second challenge is choosing quality providers, and knowing what services will cost, including the charges that may or may not be covered by a plan. As most of us know, this is no easy task.
A number of shopping tools for healthcare have emerged to meet this challenge with healthcare technology. For HealthSparq, this has become a rapidly growing business. HealthSparq started as part of a health plan in 2008, and is now backed and part of Cambia Health Solutions. For 2015, the company reported $20,300,000 in revenue, and a two-year growth rate of 534.4 percent.
The company says it partners with 70 health plans and helps 74 million health plan members make smarter health choices. Its digital health solutions are designed for health plans, employers, and the employees that are part of these plans. Some features include:
- patient reviews,
- treatment costs, including out-of-pocket costs across an entire treatment episode, and
- an online healthcare community where members can ask and answer questions anonymously.
HealthSparq 2015 shopping trends report
Today, HealthSparq released a report on healthcare shopping trends gleaned from their members’ use of their tools in 2015. Specifically, they looked at 237,000 people who searched for 523,000 cost estimates using HealthSparq’s shopping tools.
Who are HealthSparq’s shoppers?
HealthSparq shoppers are 62 percent women, and 38 percent men, and more than 30 percent are between the ages of 25 and 44.
What healthcare services are people searching for?
Some of the results are surprising. According to Burt Rosen, Vice President of Marketing for HealthSparq, “We expected to see people shopping for big ticket items – surgeries, labor and delivery, etc. We didn’t expect people to be using the tools for the more mundane, everyday stuff like allergies, chiropractic care, etc.”
The report included humor as well as insights. (Hint: We can’t spell.)
The most outrageous healthcare searches included:
- ring cut off finger
- lightning strike
- human bite
- tree fell on me.
Costs were compared in different geographical areas of the U.S., and healthcare searches were influenced seasonally.
The big takeaway is that we need to think more about how people search for things, and less on how the healthcare industry defines things.
Rosen explains, “If I need an MRI on my knee, I want to search for ‘MRI on my knee.’ But the way industry codes, I’d have to search for ‘MRI Lower Limb’. We need to get much better at ‘people-speak’, and start relating to people and what they need.” Rosen hopes companies can learn from the report and shift their focus from an inside out approach to more outside in – people first and meeting their needs.
HealthSparq Shopping Trends Takeaways:
- People are shopping for both expensive major life events and everyday procedures.
- People are influenced by the season, and their location — when shopping.
- We have to let people find the procedure they are looking for — which means we may have to autocorrect typos and misspellings.
- Shopping behavior is regularly tracking to CDC and other national data, which gives HealthSparq confidence in their data.
Rosen will be the guest moderator for this week’s #HITsm chat on Twitter at 11 am CT. Join in, ask your questions, and share your ideas about healthcare shopping trends. See HealthSparq’s report findings here.
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