Being A Consumer Isn’t Just About Money, But About Choice

Wendy Lynch

First published 5/5/11 on the Altarum Institute Health Policy Forum

Imagine you heard about a friend who purchased and moved into a new home based on the advice of his realtor. He later regretted the decision, learning that he paid twice what he should have, there were unsafe levels of pollution nearby, and the roof leaked. Would you wonder why your friend hadn’t done his homework? Or would you assume that, because he is not a property expert, it was wise to rely solely on advice from his professional realtor?

Asked in a different way: when considering the purchase of an important product or service, how important is it to be personally informed about that product?

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Take This Medication, OK? Taking a Look at Emergency Department Discharge Instructions

By Patricia Salber

People seek care in emergency departments for lots of different reasons, including treatment of injuries, evaluation of pain, complications related to chronic illnesses, and fear that a symptom is or could become serious or even deadly. Almost always, people want to know what the problem is and what they should do about it.

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Half of US Health Consumers Want Online Access To Doctors – Including Electronic Medical Records

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

First published 3/28/11 on Health Populi

Most U.S. health consumers would be keen to take advantage of alternative communications for their health care encounters. Of these 6 in 10 people, 72% would like nurse helplines, 60% email, and 1 in 3 would use a private online forum for their health. However, only 1 in 10 would use some form of social media for interacting with their providers, such as Facebook or Twitter, were it available to them in February 2011.

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Public Reports for an Uninterested Public

Jaz-Michael King

Jaz-Michael KingHere at IPRO, the Health Care Transparency team has been working on producing publicly available comparative health care reports since 1999, and we launched our first Web-based report in 2001. Back then everything was highly experimental and consumer engagement was next to nil. Over the following years we’ve experimented with numerous visualisation techniques and consumer language approaches, and watched many other folks around the country and the world push more and more data on an unsuspecting – and largely uninterested – public.

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Health IT’s Future: A Tale of Three Watsons


First published 2/15/11 on The Doctor Weighs In

If you want to see the future of health information technology, take a look at the dueling visions of two Thomas Watsons that are on display this month in a game show and a trade show. The juxtaposition unintentionally demonstrates what doctors and patients will be doing together and also what they can do separately.

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The Myth of Consumer-Directed Care


Originally published 1/13/11 on Health Populi

The theory behind “consumer-driven health care” is that when the health care user has more financial ‘skin in the game,’ they’ll become more informed and effective purchasers of health care for themselves and their families. That theory hasn’t translated into practice, based on data from the Employee Benefits Research Institute’s (EBRI) latest Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey.

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Will Consumerism Save Health Care


Originally published 2/27/06 on The Health Care Blog

Note: Jane’s report, above, on the ideological conceit that higher deductibles makes for more careful health care purchasers, reminded me that I dove into the topic early on, and pointed out the ramifications for the chronically ill and low income patients. The idea was cooked up by the conservative John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis – his blog boasts that he is the “Father of Health Savings Accounts – and then spread by the right, with the wholesale enthusiasm of health plans. The irony is that we’ve learned since that high deductible health plans can work well, but they need to be provided in concert with free (or nearly free) comprehensive primary care, with the HSA dollars conserved so they’re available for more serious conditions. Here’s what I wrote five years ago.

In January’s State of the Union Address, President Bush called for expanding Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) as one sensible approach to curb rising healthcare costs. An HSA is a tax-favored healthcare-dedicated savings account that a patient controls. Combined with out-of-pocket requirements and a High Deductible (also called “Consumer Directed”) Health Plan (HDHP), these financing devices can provide comprehensive coverage. Federal 2006 HDHP family coverage guidelines call for deductibles of at least $2,100, with maximum out-of-pocket expenses of $10,500. To his credit, the President also proposed tax changes that would give individuals the same advantages employers already enjoy when they buy health insurance.
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We-Need-Some-Kind-of-Serious-Reform Videos

Now that I’m trying to fill this site with an interesting and varied diet of serious health care materials, I’ve taken, among other approaches, to trolling for videos and news stories that do what they do well. The Web is overflowing with hare-brained I-Hate-and I-Love ObamaCare videos by people who don’t have enough knowledge or insight to know what they’re talking about, but every once in a while I come across something that’s fun and worth 3 minutes at a time. I present two modest examples below. Just for the weekend.

Mandated insurance coverage means mandated cost. What do we really want to pay for?


Originally published here on 9/08/10 on the Health As Human Capital Foundation Blog

Have you ever tried to purchase cable television with just the channels you want to watch, and been told that you need to buy the ‘whole package’ to get service? Sound like your cell phone plan?

We often see private companies ‘bundle’ services to boost revenue or maximize their profit margins, and as consumers, we have to decide if we’re willing to purchase these sorts of arrangements. But what would happen if the government were to require the public to purchase a service, and then mandate a very expensive bundle of services without giving consumers a choice about what’s included? Welcome to healthcare.
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Do-It-Yourself Health Care


Originally Published 7/01/10 on The Doctor Weighs In.

I was debating merits of DIY healthcare with my buddy, Brian Klepper the other day.  He is not a fan, preferring instead to have better, stronger, more informed, technologically enabled physicians working in accountable care organizations.   I am also a big believer in ACOs, patient-centered medical homes, and informed physicians, and all that stuff, but I think increasingly health care consumers (aka patients) are going to want to control more of their healthcare than they are currently able to do today.

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