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Website tracks consumers' online searches on dental treatment

August 20, 2014

By Kelly Soderlund

The terms "adult cleaning" and "root canal on a molar tooth" were the top two most frequently searched terms about dental services on FAIR Health, a website that provides cost information on medical and dental treatment.

Consumers can access FAIR Health's free database of billions of billed medical and dental services so they can estimate and plan their medical and dental expenditures. FAIR Health's consumer website, FH Consumer Cost Lookup, also offers educational articles and videos about the health care insurance reimbursement system.

The nonprofit company looked at what consumers searched for in the first two quarters of 2013 and during the same period in 2014. Knowing what consumers are interested in gives dentists the power and tools to educate their patients on the types of treatment they offer and the cost spectrum, said Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health.

"Understanding the medical and dental services for which consumers are most in need of price information offers an important perspective on how patients are using the health care system and how they are spending their health care dollars," Ms. Gelburd said. "As one of the earliest providers of health care pricing data for consumers, we hope the data we are releasing today offer insights that can help stakeholders more accurately predict and respond to shifts in health care service delivery and reimbursement."

See the top 15 most searched dental services in 2013 and 2014 here.

The top five dental services searched for in the first two quarters in 2014 were: 1.) adult cleaning (prophylaxis); 2.) root canal on a molar tooth; 3.) comprehensive oral evaluation, initial exam; 4.) periodic oral evaluation, six-month recall exam; and 5.) crown made of all porcelain/ceramic material. These were the same terms searched for in 2013 but ranked differently.

"This is great information for dentists looking to foster honest and open relationships with their patients," said Dr. Andrew Vorassi, chair of the ADA Council on Dental Benefit Programs. "When we have some insight as to what is on our patients' minds, we have the tools to educate them on how we can help them as dentists."

FAIR Health was formed in 2009 as a result of an investigation by former New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who uncovered conflicts of interest in one system that health insurers used to calculate reimbursement for patients who received care from providers outside their plan's network. As part of the collective settlement the attorney general's office reached with the insurers, FAIR Health received millions of de-identified healthcare claims that many had used to help them determine their rates and the data continues to be analyzed to maintain its accuracy.

Consumers and medical professionals can access data relative to their geographic location, given that fees and costs are different nationwide. The company limits free searches to 20 per month.

"Dental care can be expensive and in order to avoid any kind of conflicts after the fact or surprise bills or to really create a rather productive relationship with the patient, it's better all parties know the facts going in," Ms. Gelburd said.

For more information on FAIR Health, visit www.fairhealth.org.