Study: Users of Online Pricing Tool Chose Higher-Quality Providers

September 19, 2014 in News

UnitedHealthcare members who used the insurer’s online tool to estimate health care costs were more likely to choose a high-quality provider than members who did not use the tool, according to a study released Tuesday, MedCity News reports (Verel, MedCity News, 9/16).

The tool, called myHealthcare Cost Estimator, allows UnitedHealthcare members to view:

  • Pricing on specific treatment episodes; and
  • Information on provider quality and cost (UnitedHealthcare study, 9/16).

The tool is available through a website or mobile application, according to MedCity News.

Details of Study

For the study, researchers compared data from more than 425,000 UnitedHealthcare members, including both those who did and did not use the myHCE tool (Verel, MedCity News, 9/16).

High-quality providers were defined using UnitedHealthcare’s Premium physician designation program, which is based off an analysis of providers’ quality and cost efficiency.

Findings

The study found that nearly 75% of myHCE users selected providers who were listed as high-quality, compared with about 68% of members who did not use the tool (UnitedHealthcare study, 9/16).

In addition, researchers found that:

  • Nearly 50% myHCE users were ages 40 or younger, compared with 40% of nonusers; and
  • Nearly 40% of myHCE users had consumer-driven health plans, compared with 30% of nonusers.

Since its introduction, UnitedHealthcare found that users of the myHCE tool received estimates for $2.8 billion worth of medical care (MedCity News, 9/16).

Researchers said the findings indicate that “[p]rice and quality transparency tools delivered to consumers via the Internet may be an effective way to engage consumers in seeking quality and cost-effective treatments” (UnitedHealthcare study, 9/16).

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