2006-11-22 00:00:00

Guest Article: Comparison shopping for healthcare

I recently learned about Vimo and they intrigued me because they look to be the Lending Tree of healthcare and offer comparison shopping for surgical procedures, insurance, doctors, health savings accounts, and hospitals. They claim to even be able to help consumers negotiate down medical bills they already received. Vimo seems to be a company worth watching because if they can achieve even part of what they plan it could make a direct impact to healthcare consumers. Given my interest in consumer-directed healthcare I asked Chini Krishnan, founder and CEO of Vimo, on the importance of empowering the consumer and putting them in the drivers seat of their own healthcare choices. Here’s what Chini had to say:

It’s no secret that people are turning to the Internet for healthcare advice, bypassing even their trusted doctors to access information. Some people think this is a good thing: You develop a symptom — a rash, a cough, a headache — and immediately you go online to get a diagnosis. Others, especially the doctors, are dismayed that people are getting false or misleading information from Web sites. Online advice, they say, is often not credible and raises unfounded fears among the public.

But the public is not listening. Now, more than ever, folks are online searching for information, treatment options and any piece of data they can access regarding their own health challenges and those of loved ones.

So it stands to reason that this fervor to capture information electronically about disease states would transcend to other areas impacting healthcare, such as coverage, procedures and providers. Online comparison shopping has emerged as an important aspect of “electronic healthcare delivery” and people value this service — it’s part of the great American way.

Think of all the electronic venues for making decisions regarding clothing, computers and virtually anything consumers have their eyes on — from low cost appliances to big-ticket items. When it comes to choosing a healthcare provider, service, hospital, specialty offering or treatment, our citizens want the best value for their dollar. And the power of the Internet is delivering the information that everyone is seeking.

Now, turn this up a notch. People are getting even choosier because under Health Savings Accounts, it’s “their own money” they are spending, not the dollars of the HMO or insurance company. It’s nearly three years since Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) emerged, and while they???ve faced substantial criticism, Americans are voting with their feet and signing up. Consumers are taking control of their own healthcare costs and watching every dollar they spend. Consumer-directed healthcare (CDH) is clearly on the grow.

I suspect critics of CDHPs forgot to factor in the impact of the Internet — the now trusted ally of the consumer for healthcare advice and guidance. The Internet (and yes, sites like ours, Vimo.com) have given people instant access to healthcare price, quality and comparison information that they didn???t have even three years ago. In a previous era, CDHPs probably wouldn???t have worked: people simply wouldn???t have been able to find the data they needed in order to make informed choices. But today, the stars all seem aligned for consumer-directed care, plans and health financial vehicles.

Internet technology again appears to be the backbone for healthcare decision-making. To fully take advantage of CDH, consumers need access to information only the Internet can deliver. For our part, we???re hearing very positive reviews of CDHPs from people who use our site (Vimo.com) to gain the information they need to make smart healthcare purchases. But more people need to know about the information that’s available.

More and more Americans are discovering that the ???hidden??? price and quality information that used to be the domain of the big insurance corporations has finally come to their own desktop. As far as Vimo is concerned, we like this freedom to choose and applaud the technology that is making it all possible.

Filed under: — @ 2006-11-22 00:00:00