Health insurance company UnitedHealthcare has opened up its mobile health app, Health4Me to the general public, two years after the company first launched the app for its members. The app is available on both iOS and Android platforms.
The Health4Me app allows users to access their health information and their families' health information in one place. Users can also find healthcare facilities in their area and compare prices for 520 medical services across 290 episodes of care so they can better estimate their healthcare expenses. This is important, the company explains, because, for example, the cost of an uncomplicated childbirth, including prenatal and postnatal care, at hospitals in the New York City area can range from $9,699 to $29,076.
“Giving consumers access to important medical cost information is improving transparency and making it easier for people to navigate the health care system,” Yasmine Winkler, UnitedHealthcare’s chief product, marketing and innovation officer said in a statement. “With reliable and actionable information about the prices of services, consumers now have an important resource at their fingertips that can help them make decisions to improve their health and save money.”
While price updates for UnitedHealthcare members are personalized based on the user's specific benefits, estimates for the general public are based on national averages. Estimates are based on available fee schedules and actual contracted rates with care providers; in the small number of cases when that information is not available, estimates are based on historical claims with the care provider.
When the app first launched in February 2012, the healthcare price estimate feature was not yet available. Another app, UnitedHealthcare's myHealthcare Cost Estimator app, which was also offered to members in 2012, has generated more than $2.3 billion in estimates for users. Its success convinced the payer to add similar functionality to Health4Me. Currently, 900,000 UnitedHealthcare members have downloaded the Health4Me app.
In January, UnitedHealthcare announced that the company would launch an online appointment booking system for UnitedHealth Group members. The system, called myEasyBook, allows members with 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.
UnitedHealthcare is one of several companies working on providing consumers with comparison tools for healthcare prices, but a recent survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Americans have difficulty accessing information about the cost of care. When asked how easy it was to find sources that compared cost as well as quality of care, 44 percent found it difficult, 22 percent said it wasn’t easy/difficult, and only 26 percent said it was easy.