Unlocking healthcare transparency. A report published in JAMA Internal Medicine found discrepancies between hospital online prices and telephone prices for shoppable services. While legislation exists to fix issues like this, patients are still confused and frustrated when trying to obtain prices for shoppable healthcare services. Why?
Understanding Shoppable Services
Before diving into the findings, let’s clarify what shoppable services are. These are healthcare services for which patients have the ability to choose their provider based on price, quality, and convenience. Examples of shoppable services include elective surgeries, imaging tests like MRIs, and specific outpatient procedures. It’s important to note that not all healthcare services fall into this category. The study focused on discrepancies in the pricing of MRIs and vaginal childbirths.
The JAMA Internal Medicine Report
The report aimed to assess the availability and accuracy of price information for shoppable services. The study focused on two methods of obtaining price information: searching for prices online and calling hospitals directly as a secret shopper.
Online Price Transparency
The report found that hospitals are making progress in providing price information online. Compared to previous years, more hospitals are now offering price transparency tools on their websites.
Variability in Online Prices
The study also revealed a wide variation in the availability and accuracy of online price information. Some hospitals provided comprehensive and easily accessible price lists. Others offered only partial information or required patients to navigate through a complex web of pages to find relevant pricing details.
Telephone Inquiry Challenges
Telephone inquiries were met with several challenges. Many hospitals had long hold times, and some call center representatives were unable to provide accurate pricing information.
The report underscores the importance of empowering patients with easy access to clear and accurate pricing information. When patients can compare prices, they are more likely to make cost-effective choices for their healthcare needs.
Quality and Transparency
Healthcare providers need to recognize that price transparency is not just about cost but also about quality. Clear and accurate information can help patients make decisions based on both price and quality, ultimately improving the overall patient experience.
Additionally, with recent transparency laws hospitals can start facing penalties for not providing cost data.
The JAMA Internal Medicine report comparing hospital online and telephone prices for shoppable services is a significant step toward healthcare pricing transparency. While progress has been made, there is still work to be done to ensure that patients can easily access accurate pricing information.
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