Mobile apps help consumers make informed healthcare, provider decisions

The advent of mHealth apps, specifically those that let consumers compare healthcare services and providers, empower users and help consumers make better informed decisions on everything from treatment to treatment facility selection.

"New online and mobile resources are helping people more easily anticipate and manage healthcare expenses, providing consumers with quality and cost information for local care providers," writes Tom Paul, chief consumer officer for UnitedHealthcare, in a commentary at InformationWeek.

Consumers and patients are embracing apps more than ever, including the Health4Me software that offers cost insight on over 635 medical services and lets users find local healthcare providers, including convenience care, urgent care, and emergency care facilities. Paul writes that healthcare payers are increasing providing similar mHealth apps to help consumers determine costs estimates based on actual contracted rates with providers and facilities.

"Greater price transparency for medical services could help make healthcare more affordable. By providing healthcare prices to consumers, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders could reduce U.S. healthcare spending by more than $100 billion during the next decade," he writes, citing data from a 2014 report by the Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center.

Such apps are gaining traction as consumers take on more responsibility regarding healthcare costs and decision-making. Greater transparency and education will spur that trend, Paul notes.

"These services are putting more relevant information at people's fingertips, helping them make better care decisions regarding treatment options and prices," he writes.

Four out of five smartphone users worldwide are interested in mHealth technology that will let them interact with healthcare providers, a new FICO survey revealed.

The Veterans Affairs Department plans to debut the first two of several mHealth apps providing veterans easier and quicker access to healthcare data via smartphones and tablets sometime this fall. And a New Jersey-based medical center is tapping a smartphone application to improve communications among staff members and gain efficiencies in patient care and treatment time, Healthcare Informatics reports.

For more information:
- read the InformationWeek commentary

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