Transparency: HealthSparq CEO Scott Decker on Using Data to Empower Consumers


How HealthSparq is working to catalyze engagement through making price and quality information more transparent and accessible.

Scott Decker

4 min read

What will it take to empower consumers to take action in a transparent healthcare market? HealthSparq is answering this question by rewiring the way millions of people interact with the healthcare system. Since spinning off from a health plan in 2012 to create their own company, HealthSparq has been turning passive patients into empowered shoppers and improving healthcare costs and quality—one decision at a time. Oliver Wyman Associate Terrance Wallace caught up with President and CEO Scott Decker to learn more about how HealthSparq is catalyzing consumer empowerment:

Terrance Wallace: How will transparency in the healthcare market change the consumer experience?  

Scott Decker: There’s a lot of focus on transparency right now. I think transparency is just a first step, a critical step but just the first. Because of transparency, people will start thinking about healthcare differently. Have you ever asked your doctor, ‘what does that cost?’ Try it; they don’t know. The more people who ask; the more doctors will be forced to find out. With the advent of transparency, people will start to look for more help around it. For example, I want to understand treatment options and alternatives, not just price. I want to balance quality with price. I want to understand if I am being billed correctly. All these things will start to emerge because of transparency and help build a more comprehensive and people focused experience.

TW: What role will HealthSparq play in the transformation?  

SD: We are a catalyst. As one of the first companies to offer price and quality information, and the only company to offer it across an entire treatment episode, from initial visit through final recovery, we are uniquely positioned. We are now introducing the HealthSparq partner network to build services around core transparency and to ensure we are meeting all consumers’ needs, the ones they know about and the ones they will learn they need. We also work with 70 health plans that cover 72 million lives, so we are performing successfully at scale.

TW: So how do we make sure that transparency data is meaningful and actionable to consumers?  

SD: This is the key: Data is data; if it’s not simple to understand and actionable, it’s a waste of a lot of time and money. At HealthSparq, we put people at the center of everything we do. We actually run consumer testing every two weeks to make sure they understand the data and know how to action against it. We are adding other services like phone support and live chat to make sure consumers get all the navigation help they need.

TW: How will HealthSparq add value to the ecosystem – and what does a win look like?  

SD: Using doctors as the gatekeeper to healthcare navigation hasn’t traditionally helped, and I don’t see that changing. A win looks like a better way for consumers to navigate a very complex system. If we can help people, employers, and plans save money, increase satisfaction, and decrease frustration with the healthcare system, we will win.  

TW: What are the top adoption barriers?  

SD: The biggest barrier to adoption is lack of understanding of basic healthcare concepts and where to start. If you don’t know what a deductible is, how could you understand costs or shop for healthcare? Consumers will start to get more savvy as there is a bigger push around healthcare literacy.

TW: What do you see as state-of-the-art for transparency? When will that become mainstream?  

SD: A central spot that consumers can go to and see all of their healthcare choices and opportunities and plug into a myriad of services is the future. No one wants to log in to five separate provider profiles, three different content sites, and a shopping site or two. Integration in the name of simplicity for the consumer is the end game.

TW: What should leaders be thinking about that is NOT on their radar?  

SD: The consumer and their needs. I see lip service around the concept of consumerism within the industry but the dial is not moving. Consumers are super frustrated. There is not enough focus on building around the consumer in healthcare, and the companies that understand and react to consumers will win.

  • Scott Decker