HMOs: Strive To Address Patients’ Gripes
The Wall Street Journal last week highlighted some of the moves California HMOs are making to present themselves as more consumer-friendly:
- Responding to feedback from patients complaining of "being batted back and forth ... in rounds of inconclusive phone calls," Health Net has instituted three-way conference calls involving the patient, a representative from its doctors group and a representative from the HMO.
- The California Association of Health Plans recently hired "consumer advocate" Walter Zelman as its new president and CEO, "as a signal of their intention to address consumer concerns." Zelman said "it says something in terms of the industry's willingness to make some changes and look at things in a different way."
- PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. earlier this fall issued its new provider directory, which for the first time identified top- rated doctor groups.
- Blue Shield of California "has launched a Web site, mylifepath.com, that offers all Californians -- even nonmembers -- free discounts to licensed networks of acupuncturists, massage therapists and other alternatives health professionals."
- Doctors and HMOs "are working together to create an electronic pipeline to exchange basic patient information." Called Emphisource, the system is intended "to reduce the hassle for doctors' offices of verifying a patient's HMO membership and benefits." Health Net COO Robert White said pilot demonstrations are expected to be operational by the middle of next year.