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Epic’s MyChart takes aim at medical sticker shock

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When it comes to providing affordable medical insurance for employees, dealing with rising health-care costs is a top priority for most business operators. Employers who control their workers’ health-care “spend” through wellness, plan design, and other means have a number of competitive advantages, and they also have an increasingly valuable ally in Epic’s MyChart portal.

Among the new MyChart features highlighted at the recent Epic Users Group Meeting is one that could remove the sticker shock from medical billing. It’s the ability for patients to generate their own price estimates on various medical procedures before undergoing them.

“What this means is that prior to having a particular procedure done, a patient can now go in and see what that particular procedure is going to cost them based on their real-time benefits information and based on the historical cost of that procedure in other similar scenarios,” explains Sean Bina, vice president of access and patient experience for Epic. “It provides a level of price transparency that hasn’t been available in the past.”

Overcoming opaqueness

Sean Bina

The MyChart web portal, which is offered by most health-care organizations that use Epic’s electronic medical records software, provides patients with controlled access to the same Epic medical records the patient’s doctors use, and it provides self-service functions that are designed to reduce cost and increase patient satisfaction.

When patients go to MyChart, they see pieces of their medical record that are allowed by their health-care providers, and patients have comprehensive access to their clinical information, including lab results, appointment information, current medications, and immunization history. They also now can access MyChart, including medical images, on mobile devices.

The growing trend of price transparency among health-care providers is one of the ideas being advanced to control care costs and related monthly insurance premiums, and the timing of patient price estimates in MyChart comes amid real bipartisan momentum for price transparency. While special-interest groups are still defending opaque pricing structures, leaders in both political parties have called for a more transparent approach to pricing and quality information so that patients can make fully informed decisions about their health care. Earlier this year, President Trump issued an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to require hospitals, doctors, insurers, and other providers to disclose negotiated rates for medical services, as well as provide patients with out-of-pocket costs before undergoing their procedures.

Enter MyChart and its new patient price estimate. To use it, patients log into MyChart, select the procedure they need, and enter their insurance information. An estimate based on the median cost for that procedure over the past six months is then produced; patients are shown what they should expect to pay with their insurance coverage factored in.

There are no limitations for what this feature can be used for. Consumers can use it for comparison shopping on medical imaging procedures such as mammograms, computerized tomography or CT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging tests, commonly known as MRIs. They also can use it for certain health-maintenance procedures such as colonoscopies and core surgical procedures such as hip or knee replacements.

Epic is working on a feature that would enable patients to shop for price estimates across three health-care providers at once. At the moment, they have to go into each individual customer website to do a price search.

Charting a free course

MyChart has become a tool to help employers maximize their investments in worker wellness and well-being. Most Epic user groups — again, the aforementioned health-care entities that buy Epic medical records software — share with patients their health summaries (current health issues, allergies, and medications), test results (including lab and radiology), after-visit summaries, education, and visit histories. Some groups also share notes, pathology results, radiology images, genetic profiles, information about medical history (medical, surgical, and family history), and condition-specific summaries.

For example, Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin offers the following through MyChart: health summaries (current health issues, allergies, medications); lab results (lab and radiology), after-visit summaries; shared notes; medical history (family, social, surgical, and medical); medical bill payment; insurance bill payment; insurance details (claims, referrals, ID cards, and benefit information); messaging (medical care teams and customer service); and fitness tracking (connect to Fitbit, Google Fit, Apple Health, and/or Withings devices).


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