Mobile app helps consumers shop for healthcare


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Castlight Health mobile app lets consumers use their smartphones to look up cost and quality information about their healthcare providers, an especially helpful tool for patients with high-deductible plans.

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Mobile app helps consumers shop for healthcare

  1. 1. Mobile App Helps Consumers Shop For HealthcareFor a lot of patients, just the thought of asking their doctor how much acheck-up, X-ray, or lab work costs can feel awkward. But a new mobileapp makes it easy for many patients to find that information withoutconfronting their doctors or their staff.Castlight Health, which provides an online shopping platform forhealthcare, recently introduced a new mobile app that lets consumers usetheir smartphones to access healthcare pricing and quality data abouttheir providers.
  2. 2. Castlight Mobile is available as a native application on Apple iOS andGoogle Android devices, and is also accessible to Blackberry and othersmartphone users via an optimized mobile Web offering. The applicationis free to all employees of Castlights employer customers.Those customers include Regis Corp., which operates 8,000 corporate-owned hair salons, including Supercuts, nationwide. Regis in Marchrolled out Castlight, which employs 50,000 workers in theU.S., including 17,000 full-time employees who are eligible for healthbenefits.
  3. 3. Most of Regis Corp.s health plans from Aetna have highdeductibles, ranging from $2,500 to $5,000, while the average Regisemployee is 27 years old and female, said Allison Brown, Regis directorof employee services.Although many of those employees work in salons, others are fieldmanagers who often are on the road. "When someone has an illness or anaccident when theyre away from home, panic sets in," said Brown.The mobile app allows Regis traveling employees to use theirsmartphones to find providers in their health plan network who arelocated near their hotel and "gives them cost information, and a map andplay-by-play directions to get there," she said. "Its been really helpful."
  4. 4. The mobile app is also convenient for employees in otherindustries, including field salespeople, grocery clerks, truckers, andmanufacturing workers, who are often on the road or dont have deskjobs providing easy access to computers or the Web, said EthanPrater, VP of products at Castlight, a venture-backed company whoseinvestors include the Cleveland Clinic and Morgan Stanley InvestmentManagement.Castlight has an interesting family tree. The San Francisco-basedcompany was co-founded in 2008 by CEO Dr. Giovanni Colella, whoalso co-founded RelayHealth, which was acquired by McKesson.Castlights other co-founder was Todd Park, former chief technologyofficer of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, who wasrecently named CTO of the U.S., replacing the nations firstCTO, Aneesh Chopra.
  5. 5. The "secret sauce" of Castlights offering is the companys "datasources," including employer healthcare claims, data about negotiatedrates, and quality data from centers of excellence, on which Castlightapplies algorithms to calculate cost and quality information aboutproviders, said Prater. The company provides its services to self-insuredemployers, including companies in the retail, manufacturing andfinancial services industries, who often offer employees high-deductiblehealth plan choices, he said.This "healthcare transparency" is delivered to Castlights clientsemployees via a Web-based portal that allows consumers to shop forhealthcare and make their choices based on quality ratings of healthcareproviders in their networks, as well as cost information, such as out-of-pocket expenses.
  6. 6. For many Castlight clients such as Regis, the service replacesstodgy, static books that were mailed to employees annually to informthem about providers in their health plan networks. But even thatinformation didnt contain price data, said Brown."When people go into their doctors office for a routine annual check-up, there are often services, like tests that show up as itemized costs ontheir bills later, and some of those things arent covered," said Brown.The Castlight service allows Regis employees to check out this costinformation for tracking their out-of-pocket expenses before making anappointment. The mobile app can help Regis workers find healthcareinfo on the fly when theyre ill and looking for care from providers whomight include nearby retail or workplace clinics."The information is easy to find and easy to use for a lay people," shesaid.
  7. 7. Regis is in the midst of rolling out wireless networks in its salonsnationwide so employees can have easier access to this healthinformation from work, she said.Some Regis employees already have been saving out-of-pocket costs byusing Castlights services, Brown said. That includes one employeewhose doctor billed her a higher fee than what was listed for that doctoron the Castlight portal. The employee successfully requested a feecorrection from the doctors office, she said.Castlight is helping Regis employees be more educated healthcareconsumers by filling an information gap, Brown said."Doctors often cant talk about price," she said. And at the sametime, "theres something about doctors white coats that have patientssaying yes to everything," she said.
  8. 8. The Orra Health team believes that this trend will redefine the conceptof doctor consultation, knowledge of healthcare pricing and a soundcompetition for better services. However, the apps and the associatedback-ends need to be structurally strong and functionally robust toprevent the users and the healthcare fraternity by large from anyeventualities.