Consumers dipping their toes in healthcare comparison shopping, UnitedHealthcare survey finds

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As new tools to help consumers gain some insight into how much a particular procedure, treatment  or healthcare service will cost become available, consumers are slowly dipping their toes into comparison shopping for healthcare.

A new survey conducted by UnitedHealthcare found that about 14 percent of consumers are using online tools to compare costs. There’s still a long way to go in healthcare considering that more than 75 percent responded that they researched online and compared costs before they bought cars, electronics, airline tickets and other consumer products. The report is based on a survey of 1,032 adults who were 18 or older. A full 60 percent said that they do not use the Internet to do healthcare comparison shopping.

However, 40 percent have used the Internet to research doctors, clinics and hospitals before getting treatment to resolve a major healthcare problem. Of those, only one in four spent more than three hours in doing that research to gather relevant information.

While insurance companies like UnitedHealthcare have made it a little bit easier to do comparison shopping for their members through the myHealthcare Cost Estimator tool, now available in mobile versions for the iPhone and Android systems, a whole host of startups are similarly engaged. Here are two:

Castlight Health:  As the name suggests, the San Francisco startup seeks to cast light and bring transparency to the healthcare industry, where most people know how much a certain test, procedure or treatment cost them when they get a bill in the mail. Castlight has developed digital tools by which people working at large, self-insured companies can shop for tests and other healthcare services using cost and quality measures.  The company has raised $100 million in a series D round bringing the total funds raised to $181 million, reportedly a record amount for a health IT startup.

GoHealthThe Chicago-based health IT startup is in the business of helping consumers figure out how much health insurance costs. The company, which claims to have helped 2 million people get health insurance quotes and buy individual insurance, also provides access to an insurance agent who can help people in determining what coverage is best for them. The company raised $50 million before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Obamacare that is expected to be a boon for GoHealth.

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Arundhati Parmar

By Arundhati Parmar

Arundhati Parmar is the Medical Devices Reporter at MedCity News. She has covered medical technology since 2008 and specialized in business journalism since 2001. Parmar has three degrees from three continents - a Bachelor of Arts in English from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India; a Masters in English Literature from the University of Sydney, Australia and a Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University in Chicago. She has sworn never to enter a classroom again.
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