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HHS announces challenge to redesign the medical bill for patients

Speaking at the annual Health Datapalooza conference today, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced a challenge to encourage health care organizations, designers, developers, digital tech companies and other innovators to design a medical bill that’s simpler, cleaner, and easier for patients to understand, and to improve patients’ experience of the overall medical billing process. The “A Bill You Can Understand” design and innovation challenge is intended to solicit new approaches and draw national attention to a common complaint with the health care system: that medical billing is a source of confusion for patients and families.

For many, the problem starts with the billing process itself. People who use health care in the U.S. today can often receive bills from multiple hospitals, doctors, labs or specialists for the same episode of care that vary in content, presentation and use of health industry jargon. Because of this, it can be difficult for patients to understand what they owe, what their insurance plan covers, and whether the bills are correct or complete.

“This challenge is part of HHS’ larger effort to put patients at the center of their own health care,” said Secretary Burwell. “With today’s announcement, we are creating progress toward a medical bill that people can actually understand and a billing process that makes sense – progress that includes creating a forum that brings everyone to the table:  patients, doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and innovators.”

The A Bill You Can Understand challenge, which is sponsored by AARP and administered by the design agency Mad*Pow, seeks to draw attention to the complexity of medical billing and how patients are impacted.  Winning designs will be featured at the Health 2.0 Annual Fall Conference this September and on the challenge website.  In addition, the following organizations have committed to test or implement winning solutions for the patients they serve:

  • Cambia Health Solutions (Portland, OR)
  • Geisinger Health System (Danville, PA)
  • INTEGRIS Health (Oklahoma City, OK)
  • The MetroHealth System (Cleveland, OH)
  • Providence Health & Services (Seattle, WA)
  • University of Utah Health Care (Salt Lake City, UT)

Between them, these organizations have over 10 million patient visits each year to their hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities and, among those with health plans, cover nearly 3.5 million people. They represent a diverse set of health care organizations, ranging from academic medical centers, integrated delivery systems and safety net providers.  Experts from these organizations will also serve alongside patients and other stakeholders on an advisory panel to the challenge’s federal judges.

The challenge will issue two awards: one for the innovator that designs the bill that is easiest to understand and a second for the innovator that designs the best transformational approach to improve the medical billing system, focusing on what the patient sees and does throughout the process.  Submissions will be judged based on understandability, creativity and how well they address the challenges outlined by patients, providers and payers, among other criteria explained on the challenge website.

The challenge will accept submissions until August 10, 2016. Challenge winners will be announced in September 2016 and will receive cash prizes of $5,000 each.

Additional information including how to apply can be found at: