New Internet Forums Will Help Blue Cross and Blue Shield Members get Connected about Healthcare.

Tapping into the increased popularity of online forums, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) says it will add an online health community to its Blue365 program – a comprehensive, nationwide program designed to offer Blue Cross and Blue Shield members innovative healthcare tools and resources.

According to the association, the new online health community will expand upon an award-winning Web site established in 2005 by Portland, Ore-based Regence BlueCross BlueShield. Regence’s online community, myRegence.com, was chosen as the model for the Blue365 online community because of the features it offers, many of which the Blue365 program hopes to include, such as self-directed wellness activities, multimedia content and educational resources, support groups, and health forums on a variety of topics.

“Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies strive to offer our members the best value and resources to support their healthcare decisions and help them maintain a healthy lifestyle,” said Scott P. Serota, president and CEO of BCBSA. “This new online community will give members the opportunity to connect with others about healthcare issues that are important to them.”

The Blue365 Online Health Community will pilot with a select group of Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that include Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, with more Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies expected to sign on in the coming months.

“We are excited that the Blue365 program has chosen our member website as a model for the national platform,” said Mark Ganz, president and CEO of Regence BlueCross BlueShield. “As our online community has grown, we’ve developed the expertise to identify and implement the features our customers want.”

Blue365, which was launched in 2007, helps consumers navigate the healthcare decision-making process, maintain a healthier lifestyle, and maximize the value of their health benefits. In addition to the new Online Health Community, the Blue365 program includes AskBlue™, a decision support tool designed to help educate consumers of their best choices when selecting health insurance coverage options for themselves or their families, and the Affinity Program, which provides members access to special products and discounts at Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, Reebok, Snap Fitness, Westin Hotels, Polar, eDiets, Everlast, and other nationally recognized suppliers.

The Blue365 Online Health Community will officially launch in select markets in fall 2010. For more information about Blue365, please visit http://www.bcbs.com/365community.

Source: BCBSA

Website Helps Patients and Physicians Determine Fair Healthcare Pricing.

logo-full2Jeffrey Rice, MD, JD, trained at Duke University as a radiologist, but while still in residency his career took an atypical turn. Rice got involved in the project of linking the Duke University Health System with an insurance company to put together a managed healthcare plan.

That experience caused Rice to become interested ways of helping consumers learn how to talk about the quality of medical care that they received. That led to the development of CareSteps.com, a technology company that was eventually acquired by Healthways, the country’s largest disease management company.

With two successful company launches under his belt, Rice said he realized something about healthcare that had not been clear to him before. He said he began to understand that “when healthcare providers did not complete on price, they also didn’t compete on quality either”.

Rice said that the obvious examples of heath care providers competing on price are those who are generally not compensated through insurance plans such as cosmetic and lasik eye surgeons. Rice said that these two areas of medicine compete on price which also forces them to compete on quality.

So, Rice reasoned, if we can get providers to compete on price, it just might also raise the standard of care. Out of this line of thinking came HealthcareBlueBook.com, a free online guide to fair health care pricing.

Rice said, “If you pay for your own healthcare, have a high deductible or need a service your insurance does not fully cover, we can help. The Blue Book will help you find fair prices for surgery, hospital stays, doctor visits, medical tests and much more.”

The concept is simple, just enter your zip code and the type of physician’s visit or medical procedure that you need and the Blue Book will return the “fair” price for that service in your area.

For example, enter Colonoscopy (no biopsy), and the zip code 66210, and the Blue Book will return the following prices for each of the components of the procedure:

Physician fee: $476

Facility Services: $373

Anesthesia Services: $439

Rice said that the pricing is based on a mid-level price that a typical Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) would pay for the service after taking a discount from billed charges.

“Heath care pricing has a problem,” Rice noted. “Providers give their best prices to their worst customers. The lowest discounts are given to health plans that require the provider to do a large amount of paper work and then wait for reimbursement. The Healthcare Bluebook is a way for consumers and providers to quickly determine what a fair cash price would be for any particular service.”

Rice said that since the Healthcare Blue Book was released in early January, he has received very positive feedback from consumers and providers alike. “We know that people are using the site both before and after obtaining medical services.”

Rice said that he has also received interest from large employers who have embedded the Healthcare Blue Book into the benefits portals that their employees access for healthcare information.

Another group showing interest in the website are physicians who view the site as a potential source of new patients who are willing to pay cash for services if they are able easily negotiate a discount from full billed charges. The Healthcare Blue Book provides an easy an independent way for both the provider and the patient to determine a fair price.

Rice said he is already working on new ways to use the data and to create tools that will push this information to consumers at the time they need the information most. In the meantime, Rice still hasn’t gotten around to starting that medical practice.

The Health Care Scoop: Social Networking Comes to Health Care

Here is an innovative health care idea that has come out of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. It is a website called thehealthcarescoop.com and it is social networking, health 2.0-type website where everyday people can post thoughts about their health care experiences. It is designed to be a place where consumers can post their thoughts about the care they have received from local medical providers.

On my recent visit to the site, I was somewhat surprised to find that most of the posts were in fact positive in nature. Some of the headlines I saw included: “Great ER care at St. Francis!” and “Awesome Pediatrician!”

Of course, not all the posts were so complimentary, but that is OK, because the idea is to provide people with learning from other people’s experiences so they can make their own “best fit” choices. The site acknowledges that what’s best for one person may not be the best for someone else, and maintains that information about all aspects of health care should be easy to find, easy to understand, and easy to navigate. The Healthcare Scoop is about making health care information available to everyone, all the time, and at no cost.

If you can go on line and find out what people are saying about your plumber, why not be able to get similar information about your doctor?

tag: , ,

Health 2.0: What is It?

 

If you are like me, you have probably been seeing a lot of references lately to something called Health 2.0. And, if you are like me, you probably are not too sure about what it means. Joseph Conn attempts to explain this phenomenon in a article published on Modern Healthcare Online.

In the first paragraph, Mr. Conn assures us that if we are curious about Health 2.0, we are not alone. He says that on a given day “Health 2.0” is generating more than 130,000 hits on Google, outstripping “consumer-directed healthcare” at about 44,400 hits, but lagging “personal health record” at 294,000.

Conn then traces the roots of the term back to the phrase Web 2.0 (I’ve still been trying to figure out what that means.) and quotes some of the thought leaders in Health 2.0 such as Matthew Holt, Indu Subai, and Scott Shreeve.

This is only Part 1 of a two part series, but if you are interested in being able to impress the boss with you knowledge of the latest buzz phrase, it will be worth the read. Click here.