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The rise of health care consumerism

The rise of the empowered shopper is shifting the way patients interact with the health care industry. No longer are patients passively receiving health care. Instead, they are taking charge of their own health and becoming empowered health care consumers.

The modern-day health care shopper wants:

  • more straightforward information about health care,
  • easier access to billing information, and
  • greater convenience in scheduling appointments.

According to Deloitte’s 2016 Consumer Priorities in Health Care Survey, health care buyers want “high-quality services tailored to their specific needs.” What’s more, another survey, conducted by Accenture Consulting, found 75 percent of patients want more access to digital health tools like online scheduling and eVisits.

 

Healthcare in a digital world

Doctors, hospitals and insurers alike are borrowing from other service-oriented industries, like retail and banking. This is in an effort to develop tools and mobile apps to better connect with and deliver information to their consumers. People no longer need to call for appointments or schedule follow-up visits to review lab results or refill prescriptions. They now have the ability to schedule appointments, view test results, order refills and message their doctors directly. These activities are achieved through the ease of secure online portals and mobile apps like MyChart. Insurers and third parties are building cost and quality tools to allow consumers to check the price and provider ratings before scheduling procedures. 

Consumers are also taking advantage of new technologies to manage their own health outside of the doctor’s office. These include wearable sensors like FitBits and other fitness trackers. There are now even Wi-Fi-enabled blood pressure monitors and scales that can upload data to a mobile app.

The rise of the empowered consumer is not just good for the consumer’s convenience. It’s good for the industry as a whole. Consumers are becoming more engaged in their own care and talking more often with their doctors. And they have access to more cost and quality information. Technology helps health care consumers and health care professionals make the best decisions they can for themselves, their families and their patients. These tools can help reduce inefficiencies in the industry and help control costs. 

 

How we’re working for our customers

The patient-centric era of health care has arrived. In recent years, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) has worked to create a mobile app, Blue Connect Mobile. This app allows patients to view plan benefits, claims status and Member ID cards on the go. It also provides access to some of the tools we’ve developed to help our members make the best health care decisions for their unique situations. Here are a few of those tools:

  • Urgent Care Finder
    • Our Urgent Care Finder locates the nearest urgent care facility. It does the following:
      • Provides a list of doctors for that facility,
      • Offers a variety of quality information on that facility, and
      • Indicates whether that facility is in network for a particular insurance plan.
  • Find a Drug Tool
    • Our Find a Drug Tool searches for information about prescription drugs and pharmacy services. We’ve partnered with Prime Therapeutics to provide information on cost, quality and coverage of medications and pharmacies on your insurance plan.
  • Find a Doctor Tool
    • The Find a Doctor Tool searches for doctors or health care experts to find the right doctor on your insurance plan. It also provides quality information and services offered by that doctor.
  • Health Line Blue (1-877-477-2424)
    • Though not a new tool, Health Line Blue is our convenient nurse hotline available 24/7. To help save time, our dedicated nurses can help customers determine when and where to get care. They can also answer questions about medications or conditions until a doctor can be seen. For life-threatening emergencies, please call 911.

If you’re a BCBSNC member, you have access to these tools and more through your Blue Connect account. Blue Connect also gives you access to cost and quality data. This data allows you to find the best place for you and your family to receive care.

After logging into Blue Connect, you can find data for more than 400 common procedures. The available cost and quality data is based on what BCBSNC members have paid on average over the previous 12 months for all 400 procedures.

Blue Connect also provides information specific to members’ plans and benefits. This includes things like how members are tracking against their deductibles. This helps provide a better estimate for how much members will need to pay out of pocket.

 

How does Blue Connect work?

    1. Visit Blue Connect. If you have not set up your account, you will need to create an account before you can log in.
    2. Once you log in, click on “HealthNAV” on the left menu. Select “Find a Doctor, Facility or Medical Costs.”
    3. The providers search page will open in a new window.
      • Click on the “Find a Doctor or Facility” box. Here, you can change your location so you can look for cost and quality data right where you live.
    4. In the search bar, enter the procedure, treatment or doctor you need cost and quality information for.
      • For example, when typing in “colon,” you will see a box that lists options. These options include things such as specialties, procedures, doctors, facilities, etc.
    5. Select the procedure. (In the image below, you will see an example for a “Colonoscopy Screening.”)
    6. The search results will display the estimated highest and lowest costs based on the search result data. costtool1

 

  1. From here, click on a specific provider or facility to view a profile.
  2. On the facility or provider profile page, you will see a profile with quality information. And you will also see a cost overview for the procedure with a more detailed estimate. Here you can see what your estimated out-of-pocket expenses will be, including coinsurance, what BCBSNC is estimated to pay and how you are tracking against your deductible. We’re doing our part to equip our customers with health care cost and quality information. This will allow our customers to make the best health care decisions for themselves and their families. BCBSNC customers should visit Blue Connect to find more information and to learn more about how to take advantage of these tools. health care costs

 

Visit StateofCosts.com to learn more about how we are working on your behalf.

 

Deborah Jenkins

About Deborah Jenkins

Deborah manages a variety of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina's online programs. She recognizes the complexity that arises as our customers make their healthcare choices and is passionate about ensuring they have all the information where they need it, and when they need it!

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