What if Amazon Worked Like Our Healthcare System?

May 23, 2014

Amazon: The online-shopping site of choice for most consumers. You can get most of what you need and basically everything you want. Aside from Amazon Prime, which offers free shipping for a fee, what else does Amazon offer that we, as consumers, love?

Choices. Endless choices.

You can type in “towels” and you will get a variety of colors, sizes, brands, and quality. From there, you are able to select which one best fits your needs. You may prefer a 6ft high-quality bright orange plush towel for those days at the beach or maybe you are looking for a smaller, cheap white towel to dry your dog off with after his bath. Regardless, you are able to narrow down your choice based on your needs, be it financial or simply your taste in color.

Now, let’s think about choice in terms of our healthcare. We would love to have all the options available to us to we can pick and choose what works best for us.

A healthcare insurance executive recently said: “We have to break people away from the choice habit that everyone has.”

Yes, that is an actual quote a current insurance executive gave to the New York Times in reference to broad in-networks choices of physicians and hospitals for consumers. Essentially this means, that as the “experts”, the insurance companies know what you need better than you. So by limiting your choice of providers and keeping prices hidden, they are actually doing you a favor.

What if Amazon functioned the same way? Let’s say you are shopping for mobile phone cases and you happen to have an iPhone, so you type in “iPhone cover.” Based on the same logic as quoted by the insurance executive, the search would come back with one result. Maybe two. But that is all. Why? Because as the provider of this good, Amazon knows best what you actually need.

But, chances are this iPhone cover doesn’t fit your exact wants. It could be the wrong color. It might even be for a completely different version of the iPhone. In addition, it may be more money than you are willing to pay. But in order to break you away from that “choice habit” and exercise the right as an expert in consumer goods, Amazon is going to only offer you fewer covers to make life easier on you. On top of that, don’t even worry about how much it is going to cost you because it would just be too complicated to try to understand why the price is what it is. So go ahead and buy it and you will get the receipt a little later. How considerate right?

Bottom line: as consumers, we would not be ok with this and we shouldn’t be. Not when it comes to phone covers or towels, but especially not when it comes to our healthcare.

Yes. This may be an extreme example as nothing, not even protecting your iPhone, is more important than your health and well being. But the underlying message is that being an engaged and active consumer-patient means demanding the ability to have a choice based on what is best for you, be it the best price, most qualified clinician, etc. – all important factors that need more transparency.

We wouldn’t dream of letting Amazon, or any other retailer, limit our choices. If they did that, we would seek service elsewhere. Its time we stop letting our healthcare decisions be limited based on what the industry does, and doesn’t, want us to know.

Become an advocate for price and quality transparency and let your officials know that you are not ok with limited choices for your health.