Getting Real Scoop On Health Care

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Eighty percent of all US adults -- more than 113 million people -- have gone online to seek out health care information.

According to research commissioned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, two-thirds of those surveyed said one of their most valued sources of health care information comes from friends, family or other people they trust. But surprisingly, these two important elements -- health care word-of-mouth and the Internet -- haven't been combined to the benefit of consumers. Until now.

There's a new online community devoted to letting consumers share their health care experiences. TheHealthcareScoop.com, a new website, is a forum for real health care stories from real people, covering everything from the waiting room to the emergency room. Consumers also can learn about strategies to deal with a new diagnosis and information about procedures or treatments.

Developed by Consumer Aware, TheHealthcareScoop.com is a free online resource available to all consumers. The site combines the power of the Internet and the trust of a shared community to allow health care consumers and health care providers to learn from one another's experiences, creating more transparency and bringing a greater consumer focus to the health care business.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is partnering with Consumer Aware to introduce the tool to consumers through its members as well as its broad relationships with employers and health care providers.

"TheHealthcareScoop.com provides an opportunity see how the health care experience plays out through the consumer's lens. It truly will change the way people share and seek out information about their health care choices," said MaryAnn Stump, Blue Cross' chief innovation officer.

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"There is an abundance of online information and consumer reviews about everything from cars to electronics, but not about health care," Stump said. "Our research shows consumers are eager to find a place online that can provide the information they really want -- the first-person, real-life experiences other people have had with the health care system."

TheHealthcareScoop.com doesn't use numerical ratings or rankings of health care providers, as some health-focused sites do. Instead, it features stories from real people: a young mother who had an emergency C-section, the cancer patient reporting on her experience with a new treatment, the migraine sufferer whose doctor cared enough to offer counsel on his own personal time.

Those stories and many others already have been posted by early users of TheHealthcareScoop.com, offering human insight into the real experiences of patients and professionals interacting in one of life's most challenging arenas.

The launch of TheHealthcareScoop.com marks an important step not only for consumers, but for providers as well, offering them an opportunity for them to learn from those who matter most.

The site features a simple design, allowing users to search, sort and rate the usefulness of stories in a number of health care categories, as well as a database of Minnesota doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.

Step-by-step directions take people through the story-posting process, from choosing a screen name to writing story content. Additional features such as the ability to comment on other users' stories and to create a customized home page that automatically tracks stories related specific topics or health care providers, will be added to the site in the coming weeks.

"We all want to feel like we're making good decisions about our health," said Stump. "Blue Cross is pleased to support the launch of TheHealthcareScoop.com. We think getting more useful and meaningful information into the hands of consumers is one of the most important ways we can help to bring positive change and accountability to the health care system."

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