In deciding whether to contract with an HMO, an employer wants to know how the roster of physician and ancillary locations matches with the addresses of prospective patients. The process is called network accessibility analysis. The trouble is, the data and analytical formulas needed to do the matching must first be accessible.
The Internet is about to make accessibility analysis accessible -- and free of charge.
Normally customers would have to pay for a sophisticated application, high-end personal computers and the necessary training to run the analyses. That investment is just not worth the payback for small to medium-size managed-care operations, says Paul Weaver, who leads the business development team at GeoAccess of Overland Park, Kan.
As a result, smaller HMOs, as well as healthcare systems that take on risk and operate as small managed-care plans, "don't get the benefit of the same level of analysis that large companies get," Weaver says.
Starting this month, the developer of geographic information systems will offer a scaled-down version of its PC-based program online. The network-analysis program is the first of a range of managed-care decisionmaking aids to be hosted on the GeoAccess Network, which delivers applications through the World Wide Web. The only requirements are an Internet-connected PC, a World Wide Web browser and an e-mail address.
By putting the programs on the Internet at no charge, the company can "reach into markets we don't currently reach well," Weaver says. For many smaller HMOs or employers looking for a good fit, it could be their first exposure to software that can produce a pattern of provider sites and distribute employees' addresses down to the ZIP code level of detail, he says.
Similar to GeoAccess' tack, a Philadelphia-based clinical decision-support software company offered an entry-level version of its primary product for free on the Web last fall. In less than two months, more than 1,500 hospitals and healthcare organizations had run reports after receiving a free sign-on code from Care Management Science Corp. And after being introduced to the company's analytical programs and their potential benefits, nearly two-thirds of the registrants requested more information about higher-level software and service packages, which start at about $35,000 per year (Modern Healthcare, Nov. 1, 1999, p. 46).
Making basic software accessible will increase exposure, Weaver says, but the company isn't hurting for customers. Its 850 clients include managed-care organizations, employers, consulting firms and government agencies.
However, only a few healthcare systems are in the fold. They can use the Web service to get a particular employer or managed-care plan to add them or keep them, he says. Instead of coming in with an imprecise blanket statement such as, "We've got coverage all over the city," providers can get ZIP code information on covered employees and match the distribution to medical locations in the same areas, says Weaver.