Empowering Health Care Consumers

Grantee Name

Health Research, Inc.

Funding Area

Empowering Health Care Consumers

Publication Date

July 2024

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

July 2019 - May 2023

Health care consumers regularly seek information on health care costs, quality of care, and providers that are in-network, but they are often unable to find answers because of a lack of information transparency.

Although various data are publicly available in New York State, there is no consumer-friendly site that connects these useful but scattered resources. Many people struggle to find critical information that can help them make better health care decisions. A much better consumer experience is needed and possible. In 2019, NYHealth awarded Health Research, Inc. (HRI) a grant to support the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to develop a consumer-friendly tool that New Yorkers can use as a central go-to source for information on health care services. 

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Developed a chat bot, called Nexus, with partners NYSDOH and Honest Health. Currently in beta form and not yet live, this chat bot is expected to be hosted on the New York State Health Connector and New York State Health Profiles websites. 
  • Led multiple rounds of user testing with 36 consumers. Discovered information about consumer preferences for seeking and receiving information:  
    • Most consumers want specific answers to their questions, including detailed cost information for their health plan, for which there are currently limited data.  
    • Some consumers want links to more information. 
    • Consumers have varying levels of health literacy and different reading and writing styles.
  • Adjusted the tool in response to consumer feedback, including to:
    • Change approach from giving direct answers to providing links to information (as discussed below).
    • Add features consumers find useful, such as sample questions, drop-down options, and fewer responses.
    • Accommodate different levels of health literacy. 
  • Created a marketing plan to raise awareness of the chat bot. This campaign would aim to reach consumers through traditional and social media and NYSDOH staff and agencies through internal briefings. 

The development of Nexus represents a positive step toward providing consumers information tailored to their requests and accessible in one place. Nexus has the potential to break down siloes to information from various sources, including those with which consumers are unfamiliar, like NYSDOH, the New York State Department of Financial Services, and the Health Insurance estimator. However, it does not yet fully realize the ambitious vision for information transparency and usability, and the tool is not yet live.  

A key impediment is that Nexus intended to use artificial intelligence (AI) to provide consumers direct answers to questions, such as “How much will it cost for me to get a hip replacement at [Hospital]?” However, because of poor data quality, Nexus has had to take interim steps: prompting consumers to select their insurer from a drop-down menu and directing them to their insurer’s website or the NYSDOH Hospital Cost Transparency website, rather than answering directly. Still, more than 75% of consumers rated this approach as useful during testing.   

The end of the grant period coincided with the explosion of AI. Leading AI technology that allows patients to get direct answers to their questions on sites like ChatGPT could be useful for upgrades to Nexus down the line. However, without a robust all-payer database, the core issue of poor data quality will remain.   

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A