A conversation with Intuit’s Dan Levin

From my post on the World Health Care Blog
Had a chat this afternoon with Dan Levin, VP and General Manager of Intuit’s Quicken Health Group. Intuit may be on the cusp of doing for the health care consumer what it’s done for the financial consumer, and that would be no bad thing.

Health care is a costly, complex mess and the status quo is untenable. From Dan’s perspective, there are two things that may happen:

  1. The entire system will be revamped
  2. Consumers will take on a more active role as customers

Intuit’s betting on #2 and putting some Quicken-like tools in place to help consumers manage the financial aspects of their health care.

Dan seemed pleased that some big technology companies (think Google and Microsoft although he was too polite to mention them explicitly) are trying to disintermediate established players, especially health plans. That’s had the effect of focusing the minds of health plan executives who don’t want to see their businesses undermined; it’s opened the plans up to the virtues of working with a white knight like Intuit. The Quicken brand is a powerful one for health plans to be associated with because it connotes confidence, trustworthiness and ease –three things plans desperately want to project with consumers.

Meanwhile, Intuit has learned from its experience with its initial foray into health care, Medical Expense Manager that consumers aren’t going to key in their own information. Fortunately, health plans have a lot of the data already.

Dan was pleased to tell me that United and Cigna have recently announced plans to make Quicken Health available to their members while the technology companies’ products and services are still on the drawing boards. He’d like to see every health plan offer Quicken Health –the way Intuit has managed to sign up close to 5000 banks for data downloads into Quicken.

Intuit is big on primary research to understand consumer needs. They asked health plans what percent of their members had filed a complaint in the past year and got back estimates of around 6%. Meanwhile about half of consumers answer yes to the same question. According to Dan, “that’s the classic definition of a quality problem.” I’m guessing that’s why Medical Expense Manager placed such a heavy emphasis on tools to help patients dispute bills with their health plans.

I asked Dan whether Intuit was switching sides by selling to plans. He said no. The same sort of bill dispute tools will be available in Quicken Health but their inclusion will actually benefit the plans, Dan said. The reason: Quicken Health will help members “clearly and cogently present their argument to the health plan,” which will make dispute resolution simpler and cheaper.

So where will Intuit go from here to expand its product range? Nothing’s announced but it’s clear that Intuit has learned plenty from its other products. Over 100,000 doctors use QuickBooks today, so although Dan didn’t say so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Intuit move into the space between physicians and health plans. In the process, Intuit might find itself in the role of doing some disintermediating of its own!

April 24, 2007

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