In today’s wired world, we can easily compare products across vendors to make sure we are purchasing the best product at the best deal. Hundreds, if not thousands, of apps and websites can do all the heavy lifting for us — they gather reviews and prices for hotels, flights, restaurants and more, and give us this information all in one place for easy viewing, even letting us book or purchase what we are looking for without having to leave the site!
The health care industry is very different. The push for consumerism means patients are being asked to shop around before seeking care, but then are not given the information necessary to make price-driven choices.
Some insurance companies now include cost information to compare doctors and hospitals, however this information can often be vague — a doctor might charge more than the “average,” but what does this truly mean, especially considering the health care experience is complex and will be different from patient to patient?
Wisconsinites are fortunate to be living in a state that continues to progress on the journey to price transparency. In 2004, the Wisconsin Hospital Association began collecting and providing data to the public through its “PricePoint” website. This website breaks down the total cost to paint a clearer picture of what patients are actually paying for service. It also shows how the prices compare against statewide averages.
The downfall to this site, and many others across the nation, is that there is a small amount of data available — only a select few procedures are listed. Likewise, there is no information for specific doctors but rather only for hospitals, which could affect price. Also, the tool is not user friendly; the services are listed using health care lingo and can be very hard for people to understand.
Fortunately, local hospitals realized patients needed more than what was being given. At Holy Family Memorial, patients can call into the billing department at any time — with the insurance information you give us, we can calculate what your expected costs will be.
Also, HFM sends out packets before procedures that give a complete breakdown of charges. We want to be sure our patients have the best experience when receiving our care, and that includes no surprise fees.
As the future of price transparency slowly improves, people should continue to seek and demand information to make the best decisions for their health care needs.
About the author.
Mark Herzog was president and chief executive officer at Holy Family Memorial at the time of this blog post.