Partners Connected Health Expands Services, Improves Patient and Provider Convenience, for Online Second Opinion Service

Boston, April 26, 2017 — Partners Connected Health today announced it signed a new agreement with West’s Health Advocate Solutions, expanding the services of its Online Second Opinions Service to include the collection of medical records and diagnostic test results (radiology and pathology). Health Advocate is a leading independent clinical healthcare advocacy provider. Partners Online Second Opinions Service (POSO), managed by Partners Connected Health, provides access to world-class hospitals affiliated with Partners HealthCare, offering patients and their physicians, all over the world, easier access to expert medical specialists.

“With the addition of Health Advocate’s services, we are removing any additional burden on the patient to collect their medical records, better helping patients access quality care from anywhere in the world,” said Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, Vice President, Connected Health, Partners HealthCare. “POSO now offers a comprehensive and highly competitive online second opinion program, delivering expert medical opinions from some of the world’s leading healthcare specialists at Partners-affiliated hospitals, and a more convenient experience for both patients and providers.”

Health Advocate has extensive clinical advocacy expertise helping individuals navigate the complexities of healthcare to get the care they need, including obtaining second opinions. Health Advocate’s experienced clinical team of Personal Health Advocates, registered nurses, and medical directors will provide confidential support to patients seeking second opinions via POSO and coordinate the collection and submission of medical records for physician review, simplifying a typically challenging process for patients.

Partners Online Second Opinions service has provided thousands of patients and physicians remote access to the many specialists in the Partners HealthCare network, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated healthcare delivery system, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

A recent review of POSO consultations found that in 90% of the medical cases reviewed, Partners HealthCare specialists recommended a complete change in the treatment plan, suggesting profound implications for clinical care. In addition, in 5% of cases, the consulting specialist recommended a new diagnosis.

“Health Advocate’s goal is to make healthcare easier, and we’re proud to work with Partners Connected Health to have our Personal Health Advocates provide expert support to these patients,” said Abbie Leibowitz, M.D., F.A.A.P., Chief Medical Officer, Founder and President Emeritus of West’s Health Advocate Solutions. “By connecting our personalized support with Partners Online Second Opinions Service, patients will have the help and resources needed to make informed decisions about their health.”

West’s Health Advocate Solutions

West’s Health Advocate Solutions makes healthcare easier for over 11,500 organizations and their employees and members nationwide. Our solutions leverage a unique combination of personalized, compassionate support from healthcare experts using powerful predictive data analytics and a proprietary technology platform including mobile solutions to provide clinical support and engage members in their health and well-being. Our members enjoy a best-in-class, personalized concierge service that addresses nearly every clinical, administrative, wellness or behavioral health need. Our clients benefit from high levels of engagement, improved employee productivity and health, and reduced medical costs, while simultaneously simplifying and upgrading their health benefits offerings. For more information, visit us at www.HealthAdvocate.com

Partners Connected Health

Partners Connected Health is leveraging information technology – mobile phones, tablets, wearables, sensors and remote health monitoring tools – to deliver quality patient care outside of traditional medical settings. Partners Connected Health programs are also helping providers and patients better manage chronic conditions, maintain health and wellness and improve adherence, engagement and clinical outcomes. The Connected Health team creates and deploys mobile technologies in a number of patient populations and care settings, and is conducting innovative clinical studies to test the effectiveness of mobile health technologies in various clinical applications, including medication adherence, care coordination, chronic disease management, prevention and wellness. Please visit www.partners.org/connectedhealth.

Partners HealthCare

Partners HealthCare is an integrated health system founded by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. In addition to its two academic medical centers, the Partners system includes community and specialty hospitals, a managed care organization, community health centers, a physician network, home health and long-term care services, and other health care entities. Partners HealthCare is committed to patient care, research, teaching, and service to the community. Partners is one of the nation’s leading biomedical research organizations and a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Partners HealthCare is a non-profit organization. Please visit www.partners.org.

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Barbara Kiviat | Consumer Reports

You may be able to lower the amount you owe significantly

Many consumers facing a big medical bill don’t consider one possible remedy: negotiating a lower price. Insurance companies pay nowhere near posted rates, so why should you?

Many Americans already struggle to pay their medical expenses. A full 20 percent of working-age adults with health insurance report having problems, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times survey. Among the uninsured, more than half do.

So if you’re already having difficulty, it can be especially daunting if you’re on the hook for a huge medical bill because of a high deductible, an out-of-network charge, a procedure that isn’t covered, or being uninsured.

If you know your insurance won’t cover a procedure, it’s best to negotiate the price beforehand. “You can discuss it before you go in,” says Adria Gross, a medical billing advocate and CEO of MedWise Insurance Advocacy. “What the fee is going to be and if you can bring it down.”

If your doctor can’t reduce the price, you might want to reconsider the procedure or have the doctor suggest alternatives that are cheaper or that are covered by insurance.

But if it’s a medical necessity, or an emergency, you may end up having to negotiate after the bill arrives. It may feel odd to bargain with a hospital or doctor, but doing so could reduce what you owe by up to 50 percent.

“The first step that most people don’t take is to ask,” says John Jackson, executive director of CareCounsel, an outfit that provides health advocacy services through employer-sponsored health plans.

How do you go about doing that?

The billing office is a good place to start, but don’t expect the person who picks up the phone to cut a deal. “The first response will be no, I can’t do anything,” says Abbie Leibowitz, chief medical officer of Health Advocate, an advocacy and health assistance company. “You have to be persistent. Figure out who in the organization has the authority.”

Keep asking for the manager of the person you’re talking to—even if that takes you all the way up to the chief financial officer, Gross says. Then use these tips to help you:

Frame your request around your ability to pay. This may work if you’re in a health plan that comes with a high deductible, as a growing number are, or if you’re uninsured. “If you owe $10,000 and you’re telling me that it’s going to be impossible for you to pay, then I’m more likely to negotiate—to make sure I get paid at all,” Jackson says. Just be prepared to provide documentation showing that you really don’t have the money.

Talk about wanting to pay a fair price. Medical pricing is a system built on discounts: No insurance company would ever pay sticker price, yet that’s what’s on the bill you receive. Pricing transparency websites such as Healthcare Bluebook can give you an idea of what health plans actually pay medical providers, often a fraction of the amount charged. “You should not feel guilty about asking for a fair and reasonable price,” says Pat Palmer, president and founder of Medical Billing Advocates of America. “When there is a 50 percent or 100 percent markup, that’s not fair and reasonable.”

Research the prices insurers pay. One strong case for getting a discount after the fact is if you are billed for the services of an out-of-network provider you didn’t agree to see, like when an in-network hospital uses an out-of-network anesthesiologist in the operating room. In fact, many states are working to pass laws to reduce patients’ liability in such situations. The best negotiating tactic there is to ask to be charged what your insurance company would have paid for an in-network provider.

Offer to pay the balance in full. More generally, a good move (if you can afford it) is to offer to immediately pay off the balance of the bill. Medical providers get stiffed for about 20 percent of what they bill individuals, says Leibowitz, so there’s an incentive for them to take less money if getting paid is a sure thing. Medical advocates find that they can often get a 15 percent to 20 percent “prompt pay” discount.

Turn to a medical billing advocate. Last, if you can’t get far on your own, a medical billing advocate can help. Employers sometimes offer access to advocates as a benefit, so check on that first. Hiring an advocate on your own can be expensive—some take a flat fee and others charge a percentage of the money they save you (25 percent is typical). Just make sure to thoroughly investigate the qualifications of an advocate ahead of time. With so many Americans struggling to pay their medical bills, there are a lot of people out there who are quick to say they can help.