Healthcare costs have doubled in the past 12 years. Even with medical insurance, they remain a significant financial burden for US patients and families, forcing many of them to ration their own health care.
This means that significant number of Americans is forced to cut back on their healthcare services completely, i.e. necessary doctor visits, medicines and other treatments, which puts their health at risk.
Other patients, able to go without such radical cuts, are trying to solve this problem by saving on medications by searching for cheaper generic versions or prescription discounts.
We already reviewed an app called ScriptSave WellRx that helps patients search for prescription savings and best prices at local pharmacies.
Unnecessary tests, procedures and treatments also take thousands of dollars out of the paychecks of every household each year, so patients are advised to consider reducing or cutting tests that do nothing beneficial for them.
Making Healthy Choices app we also reviewed on SteadyHealth is aimed at patients helping them reduce these unnecessary medical tests and procedures.
There is another problem that many patients are not aware of. Prices for healthcare services can vary by 400% or more, depending on the facility used. However, these prices vary even among providers within the same network. These price differences could result in patients paying more than necessary for healthcare services.
But how the patients could know if the prices their doctors, dentists, and other healthcare providers offer are fair or not? Medical service cost transparency is very important issue, especially for the millions of Americans that don't have health insurance or those with high-deductible insurance accounts. Even those patients, who have health insurance, probably want to know if those services they have to pay out-of-pocket for are priced fairly.
The Healthcare Bluebook app may come to the rescue. This free app for iOS and Android allows users to find fair prices for healthcare services, so they don't end up overpaying, even when using quality healthcare providers.
Users can search the app for a variety of procedures, in order to find the best prices in their locale, as well as quality ratings for a particular facility.
The prices in the Healthcare Bluebook app are determined from US healthcare providers and employers' industry data. These prices represent payment amounts that many high-quality providers accept as payment in full and they're generally much lower than stated billed charges.
The Healthcare Bluebook app doesn't require users to register. To start using it you can allow the app to access your location or you can add your ZIP manually, so the results would be customized to your area.
The app opens to the main screen with simple layout, featuring two empty fields. To use the app, you just need to enter your ZIP code in the first field, or tap on location pin icon that will allow app to access your location. Next step is to search for a procedure by typing the keyword(s) in the second field. That could be any procedure, from imaging to various surgeries.
For example, I've typed in 'shoulder MRI' in the search field. This opened a new screen with the list of all medical services available in the app, which is comprehensive.
However, it took some time for screen to load. Also, the search feature doesn't include auto-complete, so you'll have to know the exact name of the procedure. Finally, the results would show all procedures that contain one of the keywords, so instead just showing results for shoulder MRI, I also got abdominal MRI, brain MRI, and other results that weren't relevant to my search. I had to scroll down the list to see the procedure I was looking for. The search feature should be definitely tweaked to work better.
Also, there’s no option to see all procedures at once, listed alphabetically or by specialty. This is another thing that could be improved.
Once you found your procedure, you can tap on it to see more details. In this case, I wanted to check price for shoulder MRI without contrast, and since it includes technical imaging and physician interpretation the total fair price would be $509. There was no information about individual providers, so I assume that I could expect this price wherever I go.
Some procedures of course cost more, for example Posterior cruciate ligament knee surgery (PCL) with cost that ranges from $10,868 to $33,962, with fair price listed at $18,648.
Details on total fair price reveal that the biggest share goes to facility services, while you'd pay physicians services 7 times less, and 14 times less for anesthesia services.
The local facilities that perform the procedure are listed below. They are sorted by cost (from lowest to highest), although you can list them by name or distance as well. However, I couldn't see how two latter options are important, because there is already distance shown for each facility, and searching by name is totally irrelevant to the search for better prices. Ability to list facilities by their overall rating would be much better idea, because it could help users determine if the facility is high-ranking for the particular procedure.
Opening the facility shows its address, location on the map, value certified provider info, as well as the physicians that would be in charge of the procedure. You can also see their address, phone number and patient rating from Healthgrades website on the separate screen.
Users can check more information about the procedures and fair pricing by tapping on Did You Know and Fair Price Information sections that are listed below each procedure.
I can only conclude that Healthcare Bluebook app is great resource that could help patients reduce their medical fees and become more informed consumers, by allowing them to find the fair market price for medical procedures in their area, the most cost-effective facility for care, and highly rated providers for the specific medical procedure they need.
Benefit: Any patient looking for fair price for local medical procedures, as well as highly rated facilities and providers