Healthcare + Consumer Education – What You Can Do

Here at Trig we’re all about consumer education. That being said, we get a lot of pushback when we talk about things like “education” or “learning”, almost as if this is simply an unnecessary step in the care process (it is a process, you know). It’s as if we are actively taking ourselves out of the equation, and leaving the decisions to the sole discretion of the doctor. Now you may be thinking, “yeah, they went to med school, and I didn’t”. And you’re right, you probably didn’t go to medical school. But you also didn’t go to mechanic school, or get your degree in I.T. (ok, maybe you did), but you still work with those professionals and shop around for price for fixing whatever symptom your computer or car is having. So why not do that with your body?

The answer? Because it’s too complicated. Most people feel overwhelmed and unprepared for working with their doctors and for shopping around. And it’s not their fault, healthcare is confusing. But I’m here to tell you that you can make a difference, and that your role in your care is extremely important. A recent study found that only 13% of Americans admit to shopping for healthcare. That’s pretty bleak, especially considering that 1/3 of Americans insured through their work have high deductible plans (click here for more on that) designed to “introduce” consumerism.

So let’s run with the example of “shopping around” for you healthcare in a similar fashion to shopping for auto repairs. One of the best places to start is on a cost and quality comparison website. Think about Angieslist.com or even Yelp! But for healthcare. A few that we’d recommend are:

  • Healthcare Bluebook – This directory tells you what you should be paying for a given service in your area and where you can find a good price.
  • OkCopay.com – This one is kind of neat. They show you what the prices are for a service, and lets you book online. Nice and seamless.
  • Guroo – Guroo lets you get an overall price analysis for a procedure in your area. This one is set up by the Health Care Cost Institute (a neat non-profit) and actually compares average claims.

I think its pretty safe to say that if you’re doing all of these things you you’re off to a very good start. Now let’s say that you’re not reading this for yourself. Maybe you’re the head of HR and you want to find a few ways to lower your company’s annual healthcare cost. Maybe you’re looking for someone else that (for one reason or another) doesn’t want to do this for themselves. Here are a few more basic tips that you can help give to people to make sure that their costs don’t go running wild.

  • Make sure your doctor is in your network – For those of you that are healthcare veterans or are really analytical, this one may seem really basic. But if you’re if you’ve just been visiting your regular GP for the last 15 years, you may want to look into this before seeing another doctor (like a specialist).
  • Request a cost estimate – Chances are you might not feel like “shopping around”. Simply call your doctor and ask what they charge for the service you’re going in for. If it doesn’t seem right, maybe then you (or whomever your looking for) will want to check out some of the above resources.