Health care provider UnitedHealthcare is making its free mobile app, Health4Me, which gives all users access to an array of health care information, including the ability to review market average prices for more than 520 medical services, available to all consumers.
Health4Me is designed to help all consumers make more informed decisions regarding their care, including the ability to more easily anticipate and manage health care expenses based on local estimates and provide a comprehensive view of what consumers should expect throughout their course of treatment.
For example, the total cost for an uncomplicated childbirth, including prenatal and postnatal care, at hospitals in the New York City area falls between $9,699 and $29,076.
For back surgery, specifically lumbar fusion, the cost ranges from $59,090 to $77,390 at area health care facilities in San Francisco.
Other cities show similarly widespread variation by procedure, and the company bases the cost information on local averages for each care path step. In a recent survey of myHealthcare Cost Estimator users, 67 percent of the people surveyed said the tool gave them confidence to make better cost choices, and 84 percent said they would use it again, Victoria Bogatyrenko, vice president of innovation at UnitedHealthcare, told eWEEK.
"The consumer feedback for Health4Me has been very positive," Bogatyrenko said. "Some of the most frequently used features among our members include accessing digital ID cards, the 24-hour nurse line and comparing quality and cost for health care providers and services."
Estimates are based on available fee schedules and actual contracted rates with care providers, and for cases when that information is not available, estimates are based on historical claims with the care provider.
The latest functionality builds on the company’s myHealthcare Cost Estimator, which provides more than 21 million UnitedHealthcare plan participants with ratings and personalized cost estimates based on actual contracted rates with health care providers and facilities.
For UnitedHealthcare plan participants, estimates are personalized to reflect an individual's own health plan benefits, including real-time account balances when applicable, and provide a view of what consumers should expect throughout their course of treatment.
Information covering around 726,000 health care professionals and 5,600 hospitals is available in multiple ways, including through UnitedHealthcare customer service representatives and health coaches, as well as online and on mobile devices.
Bogatyrenko said more than 900,000 UnitedHealthcare plan participants have already downloaded the Health4Me app, which is available for Apple iOS and Google Android-based mobile devices.
She also noted security, in particular keeping patient information secure, is a high priority for the company.
"For UnitedHealthcare members, Health4Me complies with all required HIPAA privacy and security requirements. We also undergo full security testing prior to releasing new versions of the app," Bogatyrenko explained. "For the guest version of Health4Me, any information entered by the consumer--profile details, saved notes or password--are stored directly on the device, so UnitedHealthcare has no visibility to any of that information."
The company is currently working to enhance existing mobile offerings and develop new mobile programs that help consumers and improve the health system.
Bogatyrenko said they are planning to introduce new functionality for Health4Me later this year that further helps consumers manage their health and benefits.
The company also working on mobile programs related to wellness, medication management and telemedicine, she said.