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Health plans are making progress in promoting health care quality and price transparency and in adopting health information technology, but there is still significant room for improvement, according to a new report.
Health plans have begun publishing data on the prices hospitals, physicians and other providers charge consumers, according to the National Business Coalition on Health's report. Prescription drug cost information, for example, is widely available to members from 75% of health plans, the Washington-based organization's report concludes.
In terms of quality transparency, 26% of about 200 participating U.S. health plans and insurers plans provide patient experience information to members, while the same percentage report whether physicians are recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, according to the report.
Only 6% of health plans report physician performance measures related to diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. Almost 30% of the plans, though, report information about hospital quality for conditions such as heart attacks and pneumonia.
About 50% of health plans pay providers cash incentives based on providing better health care, but the plans still use an underlying system that compensates providers regardless of health outcomes, paying for the consequences of medical errors, according to the "eValue8 Cornerstone Report."
While health plans are making strides in expanding the availability of online tools for their members, further progress in the use of health information technology is critical, according to the report. For example, 64% of health plans provide online personal health records to their members, but only 7% provide electronic medical records to the physicians in their network. Twenty-nine percent facilitate online medical consultations between doctors and patients. In addition, less than 20% of U.S. physicians use e-prescribing, which could prevent deadly and costly medication errors, the report noted.
The report analyzes and compares health plan responses to 19 questions on transparency, health care improvement and technology. The report is available at www.nbch.org.