Healthcare marketers and thought leaders have been struggling to find ways in which the popular new social media applications like Twitter and Face Book can be used to dramatically change medicine in the same way that they have changed how we gather our news and connect with friends.
A Nashville-based company, change:healthcare, (that’s right, all lower case) has hit on a Twitter application that allows consumers to get healthcare cost and medical information wherever they are – in the exam room, in the car, in the hospital – so they can make informed decisions and save money.
The developers say that this is just the first phase of what will be a much larger application that delivers accurate healthcare costs and information to consumers’ fingertips within 60 seconds, helping them be more informed and potentially save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
Examples of how the Beta Application Works
You’re leaving the doctors office with a sick child. You’re anxious to get home, but need to pick up a prescription without spending a fortune. So you direct tweet @askch and in about a minute, information such as costs, locations even medical explanations can be delivered right to your PDA or phone.
Your physician has just diagnosed you with GERD and steps out of the room to write a prescription for Nexium. You tweet “what is GERD” to unravel any confusion about the issue. Then tweet “cost of Nexium near 37209” where you doc’s office is located and discover the average price in that zip is $255. You tweet your home zip code, 37067, and learn it costs $175 on average in that zip. No question where you’ll purchase the drug and save about $80!
“It’s not everything you need to know, but it gets you to a well-informed starting point when you want to make a smart healthcare purchase,” says Christopher Parks, co-founder and CEO of change:healthcare. “If you’re looking for information about the cost of a prescription your physician is prescribing, then we’ve got an answer. If you want to know more about the flu virus, we get you started on finding out more.
“It’s the first time ever that consumers can use an existing social media application to quickly discover – wherever they are — how they can save money on their healthcare. We already have the next iteration in beta that significantly broadens the information for consumers,” Parks said.
* Users first need to “follow” @askch from their Twitter account.
* Then, ask questions via direct message (to keep responses confidential).
The search is most effective using a pre-defined format:
* What is [health issue];
* What is [drug name};
* Cost of [drug name] near [zip code];
* Generic for [drug name]; and
* Generic discounts for [drug name] near [zip code].
Messages should be asked as listed and without punctuation.
For those that need it, the company has developed a simple tutorial at http://ask.changehealthcare.com/.