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Shopping for Healthcare Made Easy

Nate Lentz
January 13, 2014

United Healthcare recently launched an online health care shopping service that makes it easier and more affordable for consumers to make appointments with local health care professionals, including for same-day and next-day appointments.  As per the press release, myEasyBook enables consumers to make appointments online with a click of a mouse and compare in-network care providers in multiple specialties, providing discounts of 30 percent or more compared to average out-of-pocket expenses for health care services.  Consumers are able to search by specialty, location, and appointment date and compare cost information for each health care provider, giving consumers a more accurate picture of expected out-of-pocket expenses and potential savings.  The service enables health care professionals to attract new patients and fill gaps in their daily schedules, while also getting paid up-front for their services and helping to reduce administrative and billing expenses.  InstaMed, an Osage portfolio company since 2005, is the payments engine fueling myEasyBook.  This is an exciting solution because it solves pain points for providers and eases the financial burden for patients that are caused by increased use of high-deductible insurance plans.

The use of high-deductible “consumer-directed” health plans has increased significantly over the past five years, growing from 8% of covered individuals enrolled in high deductible plans in 2009 to 20% in 2013 according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and is expected to accelerate with the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.  To date, the impact of this growth in consumer directed plans has included:

  • A rise in average out-of-pocket medical expenses paid by patients
  • An increase in extended receivables and write-offs by providers
  • A bending downward of the overall healthcare cost curve attributable to many things, including possibly the proliferation of high-deductible plans

United Healthcare is very visionary in this new myEasyBook solution.  Recognizing these trends, they have created the opportunity for consumers to shop for medical services and to make decisions based on physician availability and out-of-pocket cost.  Physicians can pro-actively manage pricing to increase utilization and to fill short term inventory, and they can be paid in advance, which will accelerate revenue cycles and reduce write-offs.  For United Healthcare, this is not only a customer service and a differentiator, but it also creates the opportunity for patient deductibles to stretch further, thus reducing the possible number of patient visits that must be covered by the payer and ultimately reducing United’s costs.  Over time, as an increasing number of patients become more sensitive to physician pricing, the impact on the market may be a price compression in the provider market and further downward bending of the healthcare cost curve.  While policy changes opened the door for this consumer driven healthcare revolution, technology has enabled translating that policy into reality.  At Osage, we are excited about Instamed’s role in supporting this innovation, and we continue to look for additional investments in technologies that provide further convenience and transparency in the healthcare industry.