The recent Health 2.0 event in Santa Clara highlighted service design as a way of responding to the major challenge of making the US health insurance system more intelligible.

Service design making medical bills more understandable

Trying to understand the financial mechanisms of the US health system can be a real headache both for foreign nationals and US citizens. Moreover, over half the people polled in a survey conducted by credit reporting agency TransUnion Healthcare admitted to often being confused by the medical bills they receive.

The complexity of medical bills was in fact the subject of a ‘Design and Innovation Challenge’, whose results were announced at the Health 2.0 conference which took place in Santa Clara, California on 25-28 September. In response to the challenge, entitled ’A bill you can understand’, public and private entities submitted ahead of the event projects for improving the design of medical bills. The panel of judges – which included Karen DeSalvo, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services – selected the two Challenge winners from among the 84 submissions received. 

First prize went to RadNet for coming up with a simple, concise medical bill format. The RadNet bill is jargon-free and provides QR codes that can be scanned to access additional online information such as payment history.  The RadNet founders used a service design approach to develop their patient-centred format. In second place came Clarify, an online and mobile-based service that enables patients to compare the prices of healthcare services in the locality where they live that match their personal insurance policies. Patients can also use Clarify to make medical appointments and pay their medical bills.

By Pauline Canteneur