My friend and former colleague Christine Muldoon recently described a situation that is all too familiar for many of us: her daughter was injured and needed an x-ray, and, as Christine was out of town, her neighbor was helping make things happen.
If you know Christine, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she went online and used information about local providers (an ER, an urgent care center) and her co-pays to determine where – all things being equal – her daughter could be seen while not breaking the bank.
This is a great example of the rise of consumerism in health where we can price out services and decide where, given our benefit design, we should go for services. It is like looking at items at stores or online and then ordering them through Amazon Prime so they are delivered for free in two days.
I told Christine’s story to another friend who is working on creating meaningful incentives in health care. Barb said what would have been really game changing was if Christine got an incentive – $25, for example – for making the right choice at the right time. That sounds almost too much like Amazon Prime for health care.
Barb is right: usually incentives are paid too late, almost after the fact. Or they’re tied to programs and services that are increasingly under fire (Tom Emerick writes about this a lot). What if we started offering incentives at the point of decisions – emergency room versus urgent care, for example? Would it be that hard to help people understand when they should use one or the other?
Understanding prices and benefits, providing meaningful incentives, allocating personal dollars between health insurance and life insurance and disability: these are examples of skills that consumers and employers will have to hone as health care slowly lurches towards consumerism.