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nib, Bupa and HBF to form Whitecoat joint venture

Major health insurers nib, Bupa and HBF today announced plans for an exciting joint venture offering millions of Australians greater transparency and convenience for their healthcare choices.

Bupa and HBF have signed a heads of agreement to join nib as investors and participants in expanding the successful Whitecoat healthcare provider platform. With the participation by Bupa and HBF along with foundation investor nib, Whitecoat will increase its reach to approximately six million Australians. When fully developed, Whitecoat will allow consumers to find, book, review and pay for healthcare treatment with their chosen provider.

Launched in 2013, Whitecoat is a healthcare provider directory and customer review website that helps consumers find, choose and review healthcare providers based on their service experience. It already carries publicly-available information about more than 35,000 registered providers (including a booking capability) and hosts more than 250,000 customer reviews.

While the platform now includes allied healthcare providers such as dentists, physiotherapists, and general practitioners, it is looking to expand to include medical specialists.

nib Managing Director Mark Fitzgibbon said the joint venture will give Whitecoat even greater reach and penetration across Australia, confirming its position as the 'TripAdvisor' for healthcare.

"There is simply too little transparency when it comes to the customer's experience of the healthcare system. And dealing with healthcare providers remains very 'clunky' in a digital world in which consumers increasingly expect automation,"
Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Mr Fitzgibbon said it has always been the intention to develop Whitecoat into a healthcare industry-wide platform available to all providers and industry participants.

"From the very beginning, Whitecoat has been all about empowering consumers with better information to make more informed decisions," he added.

"Whitecoat is another example how the digital world is shifting power away from the 'sellers' of goods and services to the 'buyers' and Whitecoat reflects this trend. It is pro-consumer," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Dwayne Crombie, Managing Director of Bupa Health Insurance, said: "Australia has a world-class healthcare system and some of the best clinicians, but many consumers want more information to assist their choice of healthcare provider and treatment.

"This is information that is readily available to consumers in almost every other industry and is critical to improving healthcare market efficiency and affording healthcare providers with greater visibility to consumers.

"Healthcare costs are set to keep rising as our population ages, so it's important that the health and care sector can work together to help consumers make informed choices, and support the industry to operate more efficiently," said Dr Crombie.

HBF Managing Director Rob Bransby said Whitecoat addressed the issue of the lack of transparency in healthcare.

He noted that healthcare providers themselves will benefit from Whitecoat.

"Whitecoat gives clinicians a new capability to automate a lot of paperwork, benchmark their performance against their peers, and provides information about the experience they are delivering to their consumers and patients," Mr Bransby said.

Highly-respected business figure Graeme Samuel, who recently advised the Federal Government on making private health insurance more responsive to consumers, said it is widely acknowledged that Australia's healthcare system needs to be more consumer-centric and user-friendly.

"Whitecoat looks like a big step towards providing consumers with information that can help them make better choices about treatment and providers. This kind of transparency is also crucial to driving competition and efficiency in a market
which definitely has considerable scope for improvement," Mr Samuel said.

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