Booz-Allen published a new survey this month on how consumers and health-care providers are adjusting to consumer-driven healthcare.

Still going through this in detail, but some key interesting points:

– As costs are pushed toward the consumers (through high-deductible plans and the like), consumers are increasingly shopping for value (price/quality) in choosing healthcare providers

– Consumers are not finding the information they need to effectively compare providers and make the price/quality decisions they want to make

– There is a disconnect between the information consumers are beginning to demand and what providers are able or willing to provide.

Based on the above, this fits in well with a few things we’re working on here at BRINGO. More on this later.

If you’re like me, you have heard the words “consumer driven healthcare” associated with lowering our healthcare costs from President Bush’s State of the Union to the healthcare debate in Congress…to news articles…etc…but I keep scratching my head and wondering when I’m going to read about HOW!

In our healthcare system, most are insured via their employers so to evaluate true rising costs we can use the rising healthcare premiums as a good proxy (hey, those carriers have armies of actuaries tracking this stuff). The good news/bad news is that in 2006 premiums rose more slowly than any other year since 1999. The bad news is, that’s still twice as fast as inflation and almost three times faster than salary increases. It doesn’t take Lou Dobbs to do the math on that one. And the irony is….this is good news as this is a lower rise than we have had in 7 years. Since 2000, health insurance premiums have gone up 87% while wages have only gone up 20%. Ouch.

In the 90’s the cost-saving strategy was to push everyone into HMO’s, thereby limiting access to non-essential healthcare by creating “gatekeepers.” While it worked for a short time, the general public did not like the limitations on access and the insurance carriers (who are ultimately businesses) plummeted in popularity. I recently heard a great talk by one of the senior executives of Great West, and he said today the insurance carriers have a favorable rating only 1% higher than the tobacco industry. So I wouldn’t expect any revolutionary or controversial strategies coming out of the insurance carriers anytime soon but they know better than anyone else that 7% of the US insured population is driving 82% of the healthcare costs.

So where will good ideas come from? At this moment, it seems two places: State Governments and employers themselves. No one in the industry thinks the federal government will act before the 2008 elections, so it’s left to individual state’s to take action. Massachusetts and California are leading the way with mandatory health insurance requirements for their citizens (Mass has already passed, and CA is considering). Watch what CA does, as they will likely set the tone for the debate in Washington after the 2008 elections.

Employers, on the other hand, seem to be focusing on health and wellness initiatives to address that 7% of the population that is driving the majority of the costs. If you can’t limit access through HMO’s or national waiting lists, then you have to try and solve the problem another way…make people healthier. I applaud this route and will look for some great anecdotes to share on how employers are trying and succeeding to help their employees get healthier. Does anyone have some good ones to share?

So back to consumer driven healthcare. In simple words, the hope for consumer driven healthcare comes from the simple notion that putting responsibility for expenses and decisions back into the hands of the consumer will result in more rational utilization of resources. In other words, make employees pay a greater share of their costs, and they will become more informed about what they need. Create high deductible plans, let consumers put money into HSA’s, put consumers on the hook for the pain of over-spending. Great in theory, but the reality of this means consumers need HELP making more informed decisions. They need information about everything from costs, provider quality, options for expensive hospital visits, access to preventitive care, etc….and where will this great data come from?

Well, as far as I can tell, I’m not seeing it come from carriers, employers, or governments….but rather data-driven internet businesses like us. Take a look at www.mymedicalcontrol.com where you can actually get help negotiating better rates with providers (e.g. if you walk into a hospital from the street and pay in cash, you will pay an average of $3 for every $1 Medicaid would have spent on the exact same care). We at BRINGO can help consumers make good decisions about finding general dentists in their area rather than wait for a dental emergency to strike. Other sites are working (like we are) on developing some good cost comparison information. Of course, you’ve all heard about WebMD and their focus on content. www.realage.com does a great job of helping individuals better understand their own health IQ.

So while the healthcare debate heats up in Washington, across the state capitals, in corporate boardrooms, on the campaign trail and on TV, some of us folks are trying to make sense of “consumer driven healthcare” by providing our consumers with more information and the ability to make better decisions. Good old-fashioned American entrepreneurism may help lead the way to controlling healthcare costs.

Anyone else have good examples of health care ingenuity at work?

Signing off for now…

-Mark

It’s good to know we are not alone in our quest to make sense of technology for dentists….as a critical tool for improving everything in their operation (not just patient acquisition).

Today the Wall Street Journal ran a front page story about micropractices, which said “Some physicians and institutions are trying to harness technology to make family practices more manageable and profitable for doctors.” Amen to that, I say.

Well, I’ve got news for you: Dentists need to do this, too! In fact, in this competitive day and age, dentists have no choice. The bigger message dentists should take away from this article is that technology is not an add-on anymore, it’s a necessity if you want to improve your practice’s profitability, growth, and customer satisfaction.

Here’s why…tech can help you improve your patient experience from start to finish…from finding you, to the reminder platform for appointments, ongoing newsletters made easy, customized wellness mailings based on diagnosis, getting timely feedback from your patients, sharing with them positive anecdotes, creating two-way communication via ‘ask the dentist’ features on a web-site, etc…

It helps you with profitability as you can better plan your days and utilization of your time and your staff, you can process your claims faster (one of our board members Fred Horowitz has a great electronic claims management company named www.ansdirect.com – one of many players in the area but they help dentists get reimbursed much faster, lessen the hassle of dealing with the carriers, etc…), reduce appointment no-shows, and lower the costs of mailings, etc…Fred’s so passionate about it, he leads an industry association on the topic http://www.cooperativeexchange.org/

Personally, as a happy dental patient (thank you Dr. Tedford), I can tell you that I appreciate immediate access to tips from my dentist, emergency questions and answers, targeted content, etc…if you are not thinking about this, someone else will.

And it’s great to see more and more dentists—and reporters—finally coming around to this reality. Over on The Solo Practitioner blog, Dr. Vincent Pedre is spot-on in his passionate assessment of micropractices. I couldn’t agree more that modern technology makes it easier to achieve an ideal practice environment without extra staff or expenses.

Dental Practice Report had an article in the February issue by Keith Rossein that starts with….”Can a dental practice exist without a dot.com presence in 2007? Yes, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult.” Keith’s right.

Notice a trend here? We sure do and are happy to be a part of it. Just this week, I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Jackson of Planet DDS( http://www.planetdds.com/ ). They have built a web-based practice management platform that is much less expensive and easier to manage than the old software platforms dentists used to have to install (it’s the ASP model for those of you who know the jargon). If you are a dentist and you haven’t seen it, you should. Because it is hosted by them (think of your e-mail, which you can access securely from any computer with an internet connection), they can constantly upgrade it and improve it without the hassle of re-installing the software.

Be sure to watch this space to hear first-hand commentary from Chicago dentists who are using these technologies and more (including BRINGOdentist.com, of course!), and will discuss the benefits, challenges, and tips to using technology in your practice. There’s lots of good stuff just becoming available. The wave is building (so are the cliche’s).

Okay, that’s all for now. It’s Chicago and the midwinter meeting. I should be shmoozing, not posting.

Yours,

Mark

Introducing…

January 2, 2007

Happy New Year!

As regular readers of this blog know, we’ve been hinting at our the next big thing for BRINGO for the past couple of months. Well, that time is finally here… We are proud to announce the (soft) launch of Bringodentist.com — a new way for patients to find local dentist to match their needs via the web. Using our unique web to telephone technology, BringoDentist allows potential patients to find a high quality dentist in their area, and does the hard work of calling around to make sure there is a match with their criteria (location, preferred form of payment, appointment times, etc.).

We are currently available in only limited areas, but are aggressively building our network of high-quality providers. Check back at this space for more details on local availability and success stories.

Update

December 6, 2006

We continue to work on adding more dental associations to our NoPhoneTrees.com database. This is a list of new records:

1. American Society of Dentist Anesthesiologists.
2. American Society of Temporomandibular Joint Surgeons.
3. American Student Dental Association.
4. Association of Managed Care Dentists.
5. Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors.
6. California Dental Association.
7. Chicago Dental Society.
8. Colorado Springs Dental Society.
9. District of Columbia Dental Society.
10. Florida Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
11. Florida Dental Association.
12. Georgia Dental Association.

Dental Associations

December 1, 2006

We have expanded our database of dental associations this week by adding following vendors:

1. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
2. American Academy of Periodontology.
3. American Association of Endodontists.
4. American Association of Women Dentists.
5. American College of Dentists.
6. American College of Prosthodontists.
7. American Dental Association.
8. American Dental Hygienists Association.
9. American Dental Sales.
10. American Endodontic Society.
11. American Independent Dentist’s Association.
12. American Society for Dental Aesthetics.

If you have any feedback, feel free to contact me at marcin (at) bringo.com.

Update

November 29, 2006

Please find below a list of companies that have been added to nophonetrees.com this week:

1. Dental Town Magazine.
2. Ascend Media – Subscription / Circulation Staff.
3. Advanstar Dental Media.
4. Dentistry Today.
5. Montage Media.
6. The Profitable Dentist.
7. Academy of General Dentistry.
8. Academy of Laser Dentistry.
9. Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity.
10. American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
11. American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry.
12. American Academy of Gnathologic Orthopedics.

Feel free to test these vendors and give me a feedback to marcin (at) bringo.com.