Consumer tools are increasingly important in the healthcare market. Nearly 70% of stakeholder respondents surveyed recently by insurance consulting and brokerage firm Keenan and MCOL, a publisher of healthcare business information, believe it is likely or very likely that a typical consumer will use online data/comparisons to discuss options and costs with a provider.

Even stakeholders not involved with online tools (32%) were more likely to believe that consumers were using such tools. “Healthcare is moving toward better mobile applications,” says Scott Sanford, chief growth officer for HealthiestYou, which offers online tools via phone and other technology mediums. “It’s still far behind the times, but it’s getting there.”

Smartphones are the best vehicle for healthcare tools, according to around half of respondents. Desktop computers were second at 35%.

“The world is going mobile, whether it’s for healthcare consumer tools, paying bills or online banking,” says John Scatterday, senior vice president and public agency employee benefits practice leader for Keenan. “I think that taking consumer tools and marrying them with mobile technologies is just a natural occurrence that’s no different than what is happening in any other aspect of our lives.”

Effective tools
The survey also asked stakeholders to rank five types of tools for effectiveness, with health insurance out-of-pocket cost calculators and healthcare service price estimator/comparisons topping the list.

“Healthcare is very complex and challenging for people, so the No. 1 in our slide deck is simplifying care for the member,” Sanford says.

They also ranked seven issues by level of concern relating to consumer tools. The top concerns were the accuracy and credibility of data sources and consumer ability to understand and use a tool correctly.

“All the tools out there tend to use other third parties for information,” Scatterday says. “You need to make sure you’re using the best partners to ensure that data is accurate.”

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