Matt Benge Post written by Matt Benge, Consultant at SRA | Board Member | FIJI  | Competitor | Chiefs, Royals, Jayhawks Fan | Outdoorsman | Connector of people

A few months ago, in Part 1 of my blog series on “Consumerism” in healthcare, I wrote about the importance of engaging employees in the healthcare process.

I discussed how it’s imperative for employers to allow their employees to have some “skin in the game” so that they treat healthcare services like most other purchases in their day-to-day lives. In turn, smart decisions will be made, employees will understand the value in their benefits, and employers will save money long-term.

Simple concept, right?

While it sounds like it might be overwhelming to the employee, more and more tools are becoming available to simplify the process, interpret complicated jargon and billing codes, and navigate through a healthcare system that is undergoing increasing reform.

One concept that’s beginning to take hold is healthcare price transparency.

A common misconception is that higher prices mean better quality, but recent studies have shown that the opposite may be true in healthcare. Many also think that all doctors and specialists charge the same prices for the same procedures. Also false. Dr. Jones down the street may charge $1,000 for an MRI while Dr. Smith, a mile farther down the road, might charge $500.

pricetransparency (Small)Luckily, insurance companies like United Healthcare and Cigna are becoming leaders in offering the tools needed to research pricing, procedures and the cost and quality that is associated with individual doctors.

There’s also new technology being created by companies like Mutual of Omaha (mPower360), Compass and Castlight every day that are becoming common “value adds”. More and more employers are providing these tools to their employees to help curb  costs  and improve the quality of their healthcare experience.

Now, when an employee goes to the doctor, he/she is asking more questions before getting a procedure performed. Individuals can now take their diagnosis and prescribed treatment to specific online tools to help them find a good doctor with the lowest price. In some cases, the consumer is able to call a “Care Advocate” who can help them make an informed decision on what the next steps should be in the course of treatment.

You may be thinking: “Nobody is really going to take the time to do all this extra work! People are too busy and don’t like change!” Well, that’s where the employers come in. Companies are now putting cash and gift incentives in place to reward employees for being consumers and saving money!

The fact is, the Affordable Care Act has created a lot of confusion, but it’s also brought to light other problems that our healthcare system faces. In return, companies are adapting, changing and creating technology to improve systems and give people the ability to live smarter and healthier lives.

It’s our job to make the best of our complicated healthcare system by using the technology and value-added services that are at our finger tips. By doing just a few simple things, we can all gain better control of our healthcare. Before long, confusion will lessen, and finding the best cost and quality of care will become second nature for healthcare consumers across the U.S.