What is the Whitecoat platform?
Whitecoat is a directory website designed to assist consumers in finding, choosing and reviewing healthcare providers based on their service experience. Launched in 2013, the site now has more than 210,000 listed healthcare professionals from across Australia including 25 different provider types, from GPs, dentists and optometrists to chiropractors and physiotherapists, with specialists and hospitals soon to be added.
Once fully developed, consumers will be able to find and make appointments with healthcare professionals via the website, pay for their treatment using a paperless payment system linked to their mobile phones and leave a review of their patient experience for others to read.
How does it work?
Whitecoat users have access to more than 250,000 reviews of registered healthcare providers written by real users which can aid in the decision of which provider to use. These reviews are sourced from Whitecoat users and members of affiliated private health funds and are subject to extensive checking procedures prior to publishing to ensure they conform to moderation guidelines.
Every consumer will be able to see these reviews, but information on out-of-pocket charges and performance by providers will only be available to members of participating health funds.
What is its purpose?
Whitecoat has two main purposes:
- To help Australian consumers make better and more informed decisions when selecting healthcare providers. It is particularly useful for those who have moved to a new area and want to find a good doctor and those needing specialist treatment who want a recommendation from patients who have already used their services.
- To give healthcare providers a voice in their community and allow them to benchmark their performance against their peers and gain valuable information about the experience they are delivering to their customers.
Which health funds have partnered with Whitecoat?
Whitecoat has three main partners:
- nib. nib is Australia’s fourth largest and New Zealand’s second largest private health insurer with well over a million customers.
- Bupa. Bupa is a health fund that supports more than six million customers through health insurance and a broad range of healthcare services.
- HBF. HBF has been Western Australia’s leading not-for-profit health insurer for 75 years and is one of WA’s best known and most respected brands.
What are other similar initiatives to improve transparency?
Another leading digital health platform that empowers Australians to make better health choices is Healthshare. This platform allows users to ask questions and receive personalised information from Australian healthcare providers, read about health topics of interest and to find and make appointments with health practitioners.
One of the best changes comparison sites such as Whitecoat and Healthshare will hopefully bring about is to create more competition in the healthcare marketplace, where some practitioners and specialists are charging well above the normal fee and leaving patients with large out-of-pocket expenses.
Currently GP appointments can range from $80 for a standard visit up to $260 for an extended consultation and a check-up at the dentist can cost between $100 and $200. It is hoped that by using comparison sites such as Whitecoat, the power will begin to shift away from the purveyors of health goods and services and back to the consumer where it belongs.