How Do You Decide on Your Healthcare Provider?
In Uruguay, patients are only able to change their healthcare provider every three years, except under exceptional circumstances. Without access to complete information about healthcare providers in the country, citizens were unable to make informed choices about the health of themselves and their families, resulting in poor decisions and outcomes.
In 2015, Datos Abiertos and Transparencia y Acceso a la Información (DATA) Uruguay, an open data civil society organization, partnered with the Uruguayan Ministry of Health to create “A Tu Servicio” a website providing easily digestible, searchable and visualized infographics based on open government health data.
It has since empowered citizens and helped them to take control of their healthcare. Individuals and families feel more secure and confident in their choices.
A Tu Servicio; Informed Decisions
In Uruguay’s 2014-2016 OGP action plan was a commitment to contribute to the promotion and understanding of information related to the Rights of all National Health Integrated System users in Uruguay.
By creating A Tu Servicio, the country has helped its citizens to understand and be able to choose more wisely when deciding on their healthcare service. The website’s features offer many different opportunities to citizens.
For example, in the app, users can now search across public health care providers (such as Medica Uruguaya and CAMCEL) and private providers (such as Blue Cross Blue Shield) in Montevideo and compare data on the cost of birth control, average wait times and patient satisfaction. This allows citizens to decide whether to stick with their current provider or switch to a new one.
Additional Benefits to Transparency; Public Pressure
A Tu Servicio has introduced a new paradigm of patient choice in Uruguay’s health care sector. Most importantly, citizens have gained a greater ability to select the healthcare provider that best meets their needs.
Beyond the individual choices now available to the people of Uruguay, the wider availability of information about healthcare services and costs has created a dynamic in which problems can gain public attention and pressure can be applied to improve services. Shortly after A Tu Servicio’s launch, journalists and citizens noticed and drew attention to long wait times at public hospitals, almost all of which exceeded maximum wait times established by the government. The resulting public and media outcry resulted in several hospitals changing their practices, and more generally, led to a vigorous public debate about wait times and quality of healthcare in Uruguay.
While increasing access to information is an important first step in efforts to unlock the value of open data, information needs to be standardized and visualizable to be truly useful to citizens. After this successful start, Uruguay has since continued its push in the 2018-2020 action plan, in which it lists quality indicators and having Ministry of Public Health records available to the public.
PHOTO Credit: (top) National Cancer Institute via Unsplash