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More Than 20 Million Consumers Using the Internet to Manage Health Benefits

NEW YORK, July 14 /PRNewswire/ -- With the out-of-pocket costs for most health plans nearly doubling in price over the past two years, and employers continuing the trend of migrating more financial accountability and responsibility to employees, a new group of empowered consumers has emerged seeking to manage their health benefits and interactions with health plans online. In fact, a recent analysis revealed 21.9 million U.S. adults using these health plan websites for myriad reasons -- an astounding 94% growth rate compared to the previous year.

This group of empowered online health consumers is analyzed in great depth in the Hospital and Health Plan Segmentation, now available for purchase from Manhattan Research, a healthcare marketing information and services firm. The module focuses on year-to-year changes occurring among consumers using the Internet to interact with health plans and hospitals. From the module, we learn that consumers are no longer just looking up doctors in their network and reading about coverage and benefits updates; rather these consumers are using health plan websites to research treatment options and conduct routine customer service requests. Moreover, they are starting to take advantage of the extensive general health and drug information, supplied by many health plan sites for their members, leading them to make more educated healthcare decisions and ultimately saving them time and money.

"There have been impressive changes within online offerings of health plans in the past two years -- and these have been well received by online consumers" states Ashley Wendus, Senior Analyst, Manhattan Research. "However, there are still consumer demands to be met, and plenty of room for growth and evolution of these sites to continue to provide what current and prospective members are seeking from online alternatives."

One key macro trend surfacing from the research is that health plan websites are uniquely positioned to cost-effectively meet the needs of consumers during various stages of the healthcare delivery process:

* Time Management: The leading benefit consumers report from a health plan website is time savings. Consumers can utilize online customer service support to help them find the information they need quickly and efficiently. In fact, one core segment identified in the research -- Family Health Managers -- wants to use these health plan portals for a number of family members. If the trend persists and as comfort increases, these customers will eventually transition their offline communications and customer service requests to the online channel. * Cost Management: The analysis shows that there is high interest among consumers to research prescription drug options and pricing information online. As health plans continue to offer this information on their websites, consumers will have the ability to research their options for prescription (Rx) drugs and plan benefits (i.e., formulary coverage) and find the most affordable options available to them. * Value Education: Health plan websites can educate the consumer about the value, cost and quality of the various Rx options available to them and offer general health resources that can be helpful before and after a visit with a physician. Currently only about a tenth of health plan website users visit a health plan website when they are looking for drug pricing information. As more information becomes available to patients (e.g., pricing for procedures, drugs, and lab tests), health plans can use price vs. quality to demonstrate how to make more educated choices -- instead of just limiting their choices.

To learn more about how consumers are utilizing hospitals and health plans online and to hear more about the benefits and features of the Hospital and Health Plan Segmentation, please sign up for a free informational market snapshot (PDF format) at Working media are encouraged to submit requests for additional information and research highlights.

About Manhattan Research, LLC

Manhttan Research helps healthcare and life sciences organizations adapt, prosper and maximize opportunities in the networked economy. The company seeks to serve as a strategic positioning system for clients, helping them use industry expertise, robust proprietary data sets, and insight to maximize the value of their overall business strategy. Based in New York, Manhattan Research's clients include global pharmaceutical and biotech companies, non- profit health organizations, technology vendors, health content providers, and health plans. Select clients include AstraZeneca, Bayer, California HealthCare Foundation, Eli Lilly, Forest Laboratories, Genentech, Merck, National Institutes of Health, Novartis, Pfizer, and WebMD.

CONTACT INFORMATION: Nicole D'Angelo (212) 255-7799

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