Consumers Starting to Comparison-Shop for Health Care Services and Treatments, According to New Survey

September 18, 2012
  • About 14 percent of U.S. consumers use online tools to comparison-shop for health care treatments, procedures and services
  • New advances introduced for UnitedHealthcare’s myHealthcare Cost Estimator, including mobile versions for the iPhone and Android platforms

Consumers are beginning to turn to online resources to compare and evaluate the price of health care treatments, procedures and services, according to a new survey released today by UnitedHealthcare.

The survey of 1,032 adults, ages 18 and older, found that about 14 percent of respondents report using online resources to comparison-shop for health care treatments and services. More than 75 percent of respondents say they use the Internet to comparison-shop for cars, electronics, airline tickets and other consumer goods, illustrating that an established practice with consumer products is moving into health care pricing as the tools and information needed to compare health care costs are becoming more widely available.

The majority of survey respondents – 60 percent – do not use the Internet to research health care costs. Conversely, about 40 percent of those surveyed have spent some time online researching doctors, clinics and hospitals prior to seeking treatment for a major health care event. Of those, only one in four spends more than three hours conducting that research before a major health care event.

“People are starting to embrace the idea of researching and comparing health care prices as technology is making it easier to gather information about the cost and quality of treatment options in their communities,” said Yasmine Winkler, chief product & marketing officer, UnitedHealthcare. “This is a major step forward, considering very little, if any, of this information – especially with this level of detail – was publicly available to consumers just five years ago.”

UnitedHealthcare continues to enhance its myHealthcare Cost Estimator to empower consumers with relevant information about health care costs and quality. myHealthcare Cost Estimator is an integrated online service that brings a retail shopping experience to health care and helps consumers find quality care while being able to estimate the cost for the most common treatments and procedures with maximum accuracy. The latest advances include:

  • mobile versions for the iPhone and Android platforms, as more consumers rely on smartphones and mobile devices vs. desktop or laptop computers;
  • cost estimates for more than 80 geographic areas covering hundreds of different treatments and procedures, including surgeries, lab tests, radiology tests and office visits;
  • expansion of the custom “care paths” that provide a comprehensive view of the appropriate treatment options, allowing consumers to evaluate various treatments and select the option that is right for them;
  • the ability to compare quality and cost for more than 574,900 different health care providers and 4,275 hospitals.

“These advances for myHealthcare Cost Estimator are putting even more relevant information at people’s fingertips and helping them make better care decisions regarding treatment quality, options and prices,” Winkler said.

More than 100,000 people have compared their treatment costs using myHealthcare Cost Estimator in the last four months alone.

myHealthcare Cost Estimator, available to more than 17 million people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare health benefits plans, draws on the company’s actual contracted rates with physicians, hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, giving consumers highly accurate pricing estimates. Estimates are also personalized to reflect an individual’s own health plan benefits, including their real-time account balances when applicable.

“The myHealthcare Cost Estimator offers transparency into health care costs and can help our employees better understand their health care options,” said Rob Nelson, Director of Health Benefits and Employee Services, Sandia National Laboratories.

About UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.  

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