By Dan Cook
UnitedHealthcare is rolling out a mobile app to the public designed to aid health care
consumers in their efforts to compare medical provider outcomes and the cost of a range of medical procedures and services.
Health4Me, previously available only to those covered by a UnitedHealthcare plan, connects users with the carrier’s myHealthcare Cost Estimator mobile app. The new app gives non-UnitedHealthcare clients what amounts to a guest pass to use myHealthcare Cost Estimator, described by the company as “a mobile medical price transparency service.” Nearly 1 million UnitedHealthcare plan members have already downloaded the app, the company said in a release.
The app can be downloaded for free at iPhone and Android app stores, the company said.
The app offers three primary transparency services:
- Ability to find nearby health care providers, and convenience care, urgent care and emergency care facilities;
- Access to market average prices for more than 520 medical services across 290 episodes of care;
- Education about comparing and managing health care expenses based on local estimates, as users gain more experience with the app.
“Giving consumers access to important medical cost information is improving transparency and making it easier for people to navigate the health care system,” said Yasmine Winkler, UnitedHealthcare’s chief product, marketing and innovation officer. “With reliable and actionable information about the prices of services, consumers now have an important resource at their fingertips that can help them make decisions to improve their health and save money.”
Consumers have shown an increasing interest in having access to such information, although many still report they have little personal experience with using such data.
Nonetheless, UnitedHealthcare and other vendors have moved quickly to create products designed to enable consumers to shop more effectively for medical providers, to compare prices regionally for a wide range of medical procedures, and to access their own health data. UnitedHealthcare said its myHealthcare Cost Estimator “can estimate the cost of more than 520 common services across more than 290 ‘episodes of care,’ which creates a comprehensive view of what consumers should expect throughout their course of treatment, from the time they first visit the doctor to the test or procedure, and through physical therapy or any necessary follow-up care.”
Introduced in 2012, the app has been widely used by those covered by UnitedHealthcare plans, the company said.
“MyHealthcare Cost Estimator has generated more than $2.3 billion in estimates. [It] continues the tradition of transparency established eight years ago when UnitedHealthcare introduced its first offering to help consumers comparison shop for health services and understand how costs differ from doctor to doctor,” the company said in a release.
Originally published on BenefitsPro.com