Whitecoat a step towards a consumer friendly health system

The expansion of the Whitecoat health care directory signals further progress towards a more consumer-friendly health system, the Consumers Health Forum says.

“Whitecoat has shown what is possible in providing consumers with simple, easy to access information about availability and customer rating of health care providers,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“Whitecoat will now be backed by three health funds and consumers will be keen to see all funds participate in a uniform, reliable and independent directory for health practitioners.

“The big challenge however is to include more doctors and particularly medical specialists in the directory.

“It is time for more medical specialists, whose widely varying and often high fees create so much angst in the community, to join the modern world of transparency and publish their fees. While health funds can publish whether or not some hospital specialists charge a gap, most specialists do not publish information about their fees in a manner that makes it easy for consumers to compare charges.

“And information about performance of specialists is scarce. Consumers should be able to ascertain, for instance, how many times a surgeon has performed a given procedure and the surgeon’s success rate. Such data is collected and should be readily available to consumers.

“As nib’s Mark Fitzgibbon says, the development of digital technology means power is shifting from the seller to the buyer and this should be reflected in a consumer-centred health system.

“The Consumers Health Forum has called for health insurance policies also to be made clearer and more certain and that those policies which do not meet set consumer-friendly criteria should not qualify for the health insurance rebate,” Ms Wells said.

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Jenna Gray

E J.Gray@chf.org.au
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