In the December 15th issue of the Wall Street Journal there was a headline that caught my eye. It read, “Phone-Wielding Shoppers Strike Fear into Retailers.” In reading the article it describes how consumers are using the smart phones to comparison shop in real-time. An example given was a consumer who walked into Best Buy looking for a Garmin GPS system. He found one at Best Buy for $184.85. Taking his Android phone he typed in the model number and immediately a listing of prices from other retailers offering the exact GPS system were listed. He found that the same system was offered on Amazon for $106.75. No tax and free shipping included. With a few quick strokes this consumer ordered the GPS system from Amazon (while in the Best Buy store) saving him nearly $80.00.
Full price transparency at the touch of the button is making retailers fearful. In the next five years, nearly every consumer will have a smart phone. With that, new and innovative applications to drive price transparency will be available. An application called RedLaser which allows shoppers to use mobile phone cameras to scan bar codes and compare prices has been downloaded six million times; the consumer is in control.
Now let’s take what’s happening in the retail sector and apply it to the healthcare sector (I know what you are thinking, there is no way you can do this. Let’s just remember that same thinking occurred in the retail space; now look at it today). Let’s assume you are scheduled for surgery for routine knee surgery, hip surgery, routine colonoscopy, etc. Could you take your smart phone and with a few simple clicks find the highest quality, lowest cost facility in your area that can to the procedure? Hmmm…well it’s here today. Our organization offers ConsumerScope for iPhones. This is an application that can be downloaded free to view what facilities typically charge for a procedure and what it actually costs for the procedure to be performed.
In a few short years I believe the next headline in the Wall Street Journal will read, “Smart Phones Strike Fear into the Healthcare System.”
A great article appeared in the Washington Post by N.C. Aizenman recently regarding doctors who are dropping Medicare patients from their practice. We are reaching a tipping point in healthcare. Doctors are struggling to determine what their business model will look like month-to-month. As congress continues to delay a decision on Medicare rates, it is almost impossible for physicians to run a business. Those plans who have stated that they will just pay a percentage of Medicare will be challenged. Any mention of payments being made on a percentage of Medicare will be severely challenged.