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'The Business of Health Care Report'

Trends to Watch in Health Care
03/06/2006

Click to listen to the taped broadcast.

I’m Doug Hawthorne, president and CEO of Texas Health Resources, with “The Business of Health Care Report.”

Consumerism in health care is a growing trend as patients are encouraged to comparison shop for cost and quality of care. The hope is that consumers, spending more of their own money, will help control increasing health care costs.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal says “expect to see efforts next year to simplify a health-care marketplace that at times can feel as easy to navigate as a dense forest.” Let me add that health care providers would also like to see a simpler marketplace!

Managed care companies and providers are beginning to make more prices available for comparison shopping. Cigna and Aetna are leading the way in pilot programs.

Managed care companies also are experimenting with efforts to steer patients to “high performing” physicians — those deemed by insurers to be high quality and cost efficient. The quality, insurers say, can be measured on treatment practices. If patients go to these physicians, they may pay less, the reasoning goes.

Some managed care companies are taking a cue from financial advisers. For example, United Healthcare is piloting a “value coach” program to help patients navigate treatment options and find better deals on medicines.

All of these trends are aimed at giving consumers and businesses more direct control over health care spending.

For Texas Health Resources and its faith-based hospitals – Harris Methodist, Presbyterian and Arlington Memorial – I’m Doug Hawthorne.

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