Investors are pumping millions of dollars into healthcare price transparency startups. Journalists are calling shenanigans on hospital pricing systems. Governments are trying to help by publishing hospital data they never have before. But where is it all leading?
That was one of the questions posed in this week’s TEDMED Great Challenges Google+ hangout. Panelists — who represented startups, research organizations and a clinician-educator — were asked to think about where their work on price transparency is really leading, where there are untapped opportunities to build momentum, and how they’ll know true transparency has arrived.
Here are some of their ideas.
Jeanne Pinder, founder of ClearHealthCosts
One thing that really hasn’t happened yet in this marketplace is that people would put pricing information in the hands of people who can make decisions. That’s what we’re here to do. It’s free on our website; all you have to do is go find it. Once we’ve put that information into people’s hands, we think they’ll feel better about making decisions not only on price but also on quality, and opening up the conversation. That’s what the internet is really here for is to bring transparency.
Jen Joynt, healthcare consultant
(One) thing that I think is going to be really critical is to try to make sure that we’re linking some of the information that’s out there. People don’t want to just purchase on price. They want the quality information. There is some quality information (available), and the sources of that information (are) growing as well. There’s also patient satisfaction. So I think marrying all of this data is going to be important, because you don’t want people just purchasing on price. You want to make sure that they also understand some of the quality ramifications of what they’re getting.
I like the idea of also making sure that you have good information at the point of decision, and that you have providers and payers also jumping on board and helping with this, so that people who aren’t engaging in the conversation are having it engaged for them. When you go to a physician and you need a next step, how great would it be if that physician had a handout with prices on it, or could send you some place where you could get the prices?
Maribeth Shannon, director of Market and Policy Monitor program at California HealthCare Foundation
Right now, before you have surgery, you have to sign a form that say that you understand what the potential side effects are going to be or what the recovery process is going to be. Why not include what it’s going to cost — what it’s going to cost you, what it’s going to cost your insurance company, so people actually at the point of sale [...] fully understand what the implications are and whether or not it’s really going to be effective. Will this treatment be slightly more effective but it’s going to cost $5,000 more? Right now patients are not involved in any of that decision-making; they really trust their doctors to do it. Times have changed. We’ve had this evolutionary process and maybe it’s time to have people sign off on what things cost.
Lisa Maki, founder of PokitDok
It is absolutely within our vision and roadmap to partner with anyone from a bank to LendingTree to assist consumers who may want to go after a larger procedure, or to pay more for something — to get something that they really want and are motivated to go after and pay for. That should be available to them in a free market.
Amy Edgar, professor of nursing at Cedar Crest College
I understand that we have to start with services and procedures, but we really haven’t even begun the conversation about prevention and those services, and what is cost and value there? I think that is another Great Challenge that I would add to the list.
[Photo Credit: Sura Nualpradid]