WA insurers offer medical cost, quality info online

Washington state insurers have begun to give members more information on healthcare quality and costs, as well as what their neighbors think of local providers. Regence BlueShield, for example, will soon allow its 3 million members to read comments from other members on the providers in its network. Meanwhile, Aetna, which has about 490,000 members in Washington, has begun giving members online information on facilities like hospitals and surgery centers, focusing on 30 common procedures. In doing so, they're following the lead of WellPoint, which plans to roll out physician reviews (in cooperation with restaurant reviews leader Zagat) sometime in the next month or two in a few regional markets.

The notion, of course, is that consumers will use cost and quality information to make better buying decisions. However, to date it's still not clear that consumers know how to use such data effectively, or even want to do so. While health plans are likely to keep putting such stakes in the ground, in other words, it's not clear how soon consumers will become enthusiastic users. This trend is worth watching.

To learn more about these efforts:
- read this Puget Sound Business Journal piece

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