Sheila Meehan of WebMD Health Service, Inc. talks about the push to consumer-directed health care.
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What does the future hold in store for healthcare? Sheila Meehan: Well I think the thing that really impressed me this morning was the fact that there were representatives from government, other pubic policy, agencies or organizations as well as employers and health plans. So this conference has brought all of the different state holders to the table and I think we're here in a common theme which I've been in the consumer directed healthcare business for a number of years now and I think the industry or the society has finally come to the conclusion that it needs to be fixed. The third-party payer system is just not working and that consumers are now ready to start taking control of their healthcare. One of the speakers who, the guy from Windies who said, I laughed when I listened to him to say all of the arguments that his employees aren't smart enough to understand their healthcare and then to hear the uptake that he's got in terms of participation online and in their HRA and those kinds of things. It just really is a testament to where the whole world has kind of come in terms of consumer directed healthcare, because it's time for the market to start driving the whole healthcare industry and that's the only way it's going to get fixed. How can companies like WebMD help Consumer-Driven-Healthcare? Sheila Meehan: I chair a test course in New York and actually for the New York business group on health and I remember the first consumer direct that healthcare conference we did about a seminar 8 years ago and nobody knew what it was and all this is never going to work and everything got phoophooed but I think companies like WebMD that can actually provide an infrastructure that employers and health plans can use to help make it easier for the consumer because you can throw this in the consumer's lap and say now take charge of your healthcare but unless there's the information that they need and easy to use tools to ferret through all of the information that's out there. They're not going to be able to make intelligent and healthcare decisions that address the quality issues because it's not just about cost, it's about quality and cost so I think companies like WebMD and there are others out there of course none ever as good as WebMD but they're planning at the other companies out there though that are starting to come to the table to put those kinds of tools in the information out there for consumers so actually start managing their healthcare.