UnitedHealthcare announced at CES that the company is launching an online appointment booking system for UnitedHealthgroup members. The system, which is called myEasyBook, will allow users of high-deductible healthcare plans (such as those linked to Health Savings Accounts or Health Reimbursement Accounts) to go online and compare the costs of different available providers in their network.
The software calculates the out-of-pocket price to the user based on his or her insurance information and searches multiple providers by condition, creating a similar experience to how one might buy a flight on an airline price comparison tool like Orbitz or Expedia.
"This innovative service helps people find quality local health care providers more efficiently and at their convenience, delivering value to both patients and providers through a simple, personalized experience,” Tom Paul, chief consumer officer at UnitedHealthcare, said in a statement. “Consumers are gaining a convenient tool to help them access affordable care at transparent prices, while medical professionals are able to attract new patients and fill any gaps in their daily schedules.”
Users pay for appointments up front, using their HSAs or HRAs directly or via a credit or debit card. UHC has contracted with online healthcare payment company InstaMed to handle the online payments. Services patients can book on the site include pediatric care, routine physicals, MRI tests, physical and occupational therapy, dental and vision appointments, massage therapy, and chiropractor services.
UnitedHealthcare launched a pilot of the system in Phoenix, Arizona last year. The company says 50 percent of users there have used the service more than once. It will be rolled out in Dallas, Texas and Denver, Colorado in early 2014, with additional cities added throughout the year.
UPDATE: UnitedHealthcare VP of Innovation and R&D Nick Martin told MobiHealthNews that while the software is currently only for UnitedHealthgroup members, the company plans to possibly expand the offering in the future. Martin said in an email he doesn't see myEasyBook as the same as dedicated appointment offering sites like ZocDoc.
"Those applications are great for appointment booking, but our hope is that we are creating a marketplace for consumers to shop smartly for healthcare and take the hassle out of figuring out their out of pocket costs," he said. "myEasyBook combines appointment booking, price transparency, pre-payment for discounts, and the opportunity to leverage their HSA or HRAs all in one service."
In addition to myEasyBook, UnitedHealthcare is touting its online diabetes prevention program NOT ME, launched in September. The program is an online version of a previously developed in-person program which began in 2010. It uses an interactive online platform, online TV episodes, tracking tools and coaches to help people at risk for type 2 diabetes lose weight. In an ongoing pilot program, users are implementing activity trackers and connected weight scales sent to them in the mail.