As healthcare transitions to a more consumer-based decision, lack of price transparency is one of the top challenges facing patients. Approximately 66 percent of consumers have never talked to their providers about the cost of a visit, and 60 percent have never discussed the price of a procedure. So, how can they make informed decisions without all the facts?
To increase transparency, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) now requires hospitals to publish prices for their services online. Effective price and quality transparency help patients understand what they owe and their options for assistance. Patients with this information are more likely to take control of their health instead of delaying tests or procedures. Although well-intended, this requirement has not necessarily made price calculation simpler for patients.
According to STATnews, the healthcare industry is missing the true point of hospital price transparency. “Rather than enlighten us on the cost of, say, a knee replacement, we must now parse the complicated medical jargon associated with knee replacement surgery — do I need the ‘Component FML P-STB Cndlr Knee Ant-Pstr Pors 54x55mm’ for $42,011 at one Texas hospital or do I need its ‘Implant TIB Knee MOST HNGD SZ 2’ at $25,956? — while trying to figure out how much insurers will knock off the price,” says Jay Deady, CEO of Recondo Technology, a Denver-based healthcare technology company.
Unfortunately, healthcare charges aren’t straightforward, which can be especially confusing for those outside of the healthcare field. The “real” cost is often buried somewhere between medical terms and codes. Additionally, consumers can’t make exact comparisons as they would for a new mattress or kitchen appliance. There are many factors to consider in addition to the cost—and we’ve already established how hard that is to determine!
It’s important that medical professionals are equipped to help answer their patients’ questions or guide them to the correct resources. Below, we’ve included three simple ways that practices and providers can help encourage healthcare transparency.
Provide signage encouraging patients to discuss the cost of care
As a partner in your patient’s care, it’s important to encourage dialogue. America’s Essential Hospitals found that 70 percent of patients want to talk with their clinical team or other hospital staff about the cost of their care, but only 28 percent bring up the issue.
You can help alleviate this tension by creating effective signage that encourages patients to speak with their provider about the cost of care. This opens the door for patients to feel empowered to seek more information regarding their health.
Create conversation guides for distribution
Once patients ask a question about the cost of their healthcare, it’s important to be well-equipped with answers—or be a place to help them find answers!
Making a standard conversation guide provides an arsenal of tools for effective communication—frequently asked questions, topics to discuss, and a list of additional resources—and opens the line of communication so that each patient may candidly discuss the cost of care.
You may not have all the answers, and that’s okay. Collect resources that apply to your hospital’s costs. Whether it’s a webinar, cost calculator, or insurance information, be sure to offer useful, relevant content to help your patients learn more about the cost of their care. Then, offer resources to help address additional, external issues that may compound cost concerns, like transportation. Now, your patients feel as though you’re helping them understand the cost of their care.
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