Harvard professor has a big idea for the future of health care shopping
Jul 19, 2015, Jessica Bartlett Reporter
Harvard Professor Regina Herzlinger has filed a patent for a broadened health care website that could cater to a variety of patient needs.
A Harvard professor is looking to create a health care price shopping and rating tool that could help people better shop for health care services and insurance.
In a patent application published in early June, Regina Herzlinger, a noted business administration professor at Harvard Business School, filed the latest details behind her vision for a health care website, that would offer a marked departure in how consumers currently shop for health care.
The site would combine data from a variety of objective third-party sources to provide consumers with information on a variety of areas relating to health care, including managing a health savings account, choosing a health insurance policy, selecting a doctor, and rating a doctor or insurer.
In the patent filing, Herzlinger said that people with high deductible plans will increasingly need to monitor and shop for their health care in a more convenient way. Some of this information is in a variety of different places that are difficult to access. Other information is currently available through a person’s insurance company, but the patent filing details that this information is inherently flawed, as the insurer is incentivized to only provide information that is advantageous to its business.
“It is highly desirable for there to be a single system that will make needed health-care information readily available from neutral third-party sources to assist (consumers) in making health care decisions in an economically and judicious manner,” according to the patent application.
The patent application theorizes a system that would be accessible through cell phones and other electronic devices. The site would be capable of providing updated information on health care services on a streaming basis, offer information on doctors that can give second opinions on medical conditions, and note places where consumers can get treatment for certain conditions.
A consumer may also have access to their medical record, access to benefits information, data on his or her health savings account, and be able to search medical data – such as associated risks with a new drug.
Herzlinger did not respond to calls for comment, but the site seems like a aggregated version of many different products currently on the market. Athenahealth has a medication search app known as Epocrates that is available to doctors via mobile devices, which allows doctors to search for risks associated with a drug as well as medication combination issues.
Picture: Boston Business Journal/U.S. Patent and Trademark Office/
While Herzlinger’s idea is much broader in scope, users can also search for insurance products on the state’s open marketplace during open enrollment, seeing prices for different plans available. The patent application also recognizes that there are a number of data sources that provide information with health insurance policies, providers and services, but said “this information is not usually accessible at a single convenient location.”
The patent application is only the latest update in a string of patents Herzlinger has filed around the “one-stop shopping system." The earliest patent on the technology dates back to 2006.
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