Opinion: Consumers are more than ready

By Tracey Campbell

My two 79 year-old parents recently marveled at the ease at which they can see results from lab tests and x-rays from University Hospital’s patient portal at their own convenience before going to see their doctors for their follow-up visit. They were thrilled that their personal health information is available to them, right in front of them, just as their physician sees it. And shouldn’t they? This is their health information and it’s vital to help them engage and take care of themselves.

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As consumers, we’ve grown accustomed to having ready access to our bank statements, our investments, our mortgage and insurance information whenever we wanted to see it. Viewing our own health information can and should operate the same way. However, many people think consumers are not ready to handle transparency of health care price and quality information. Some are afraid patients will not be able to make sense of it, and that seeing price and quality information will only confuse them, and not help them become better stewards of their health care choices.

I think they may have been right – many years ago.

However, over the last few years I’ve seen a shift in education and awareness about health care issues for the average American. Everyone I know is talking about health care in personal conversations and many groups are including health care as a top priority for creating innovation and building a healthy business environment in Colorado.

In addition to my parents, I have had the opportunity to meet with different Colorado groups consisting of very engaged consumers and found them to not only be ready for health care transparency, but also hungry for it. One event I attended that demonstrated this desire was in February at the Boulder Denver New Tech (BDNT). Over 150 people attended, including software engineers, entrepreneurs, tech resources, and health care professionals — all of whom are also consumers of health care services. This group of people represent engaged, digital thought leaders in Colorado working to make health care better for all of us in the state. When they learned about Colorado’s All Payer Claims Database (APCD) they wanted to know when they could shop for health care prices and information. Like many of us, they are accustomed to Yelp, Travel Advisor, and Open Table and want a similar experience in taking care of their health care needs. They wanted to be able to search for services and see how prices differed by provider and location and see rankings and quality information too. This is not my parent’s generation where you go wherever your primary care physician tells you to go.

In March I attended Health 2.0: Delivering Value with Colorado Health Data, hosted by iTriage. Health 2.0 promotes, showcases and catalyzes new technologies in health care. These are Coloradans who want to bring value to health care for FREE. (Yes, you read that last sentence correctly!) The meeting started with everyone submitting their personal frustrations with the current health care system. A few examples included:

‘The process of choosing a doctor, a hospital, insurance carrier, or health care system should be and feel similar to the way a child can quickly start using a fun or basic learning application on an iPad: intuitive, requires little instruction, and you can start having fun in seconds. It should be Fischer-Price like – big, shiny bright buttons that easily help steer me to the information I need or to complete the task that I am desiring.’

‘We’ve greatly improved the ability to review physicians and hospital profiles and get a sense of who they are from a background and training perspective. iTriage, ZocDoc, Healthgrades, etc. have all done fairly well with this. We can read customer comments and see how many stars they have. But we’ve done little to tie in their costs, their outcomes, the satisfaction scores all in a trusted one stop shop.’

Health 2.0 attendees then split into five groups where they spent the next hour brainstorming ideas on how to use health care price and quality data to create tools and applications that will help consumers make better decisions regarding their use of health care. One of the best ideas of the group was a health care version of Turbo Tax that guides a consumer through questions regarding their health and provided them with suggestions on how to improve their choices for services and providers going forward by listing the best priced locations with the highest quality so that consumers know where they will get the biggest bang for their buck.

These are only two examples of the desire for data and the innovative ideas Coloradans have to assist them with making informed health care choices. CIVHC, as administrator of the Colorado All Payer Claims Database (APCD), is committed to support consumer transparency and will be launching consumer-focused price and quality reports at the end of June on the APCD website, www.cohealthdata.org. The interactive reports will enable Coloradans to shop for things like knee and hip replacements, and will provide both estimated prices as well as quality information by named facilities across Colorado. This initial release of a limited number of procedures and facilities will be the first step in a series of phases that will ultimately provide more comprehensive price and quality information to Coloradans for a wide variety of common services at different types of facilities (hospitals, provider groups, imaging facilities, ambulatory surgery centers, etc.).

So whether you are retired, a young software engineer, or an entrepreneur in this state, it seems to me Coloradans are ready for the democratization and liberation of health care data.

About the Author: Tracey Campbell is CIVHC’s Director of All Payer Claims Database. Contact her at [email protected].

Opinions expressed in Health News Colorado represent the view of individual authors.
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