Proactive price transparency could be a competitive advantage for healthcare providers, as a Kaiser Family Foundation survey suggests a majority of Americans believe Congress should prioritize the issue. The survey revealed that 60% of respondents think legislative action to make healthcare prices more transparent should be a “top priority” for the next Congress, while a further 35% said such laws were “important, but not a top priority.”
Concerns about the cost of living are top of mind for many households, with 91% of respondents specifically noting their worries about rising healthcare prices. Providers can help meet the demand for more transparent pricing by implementing solutions to make it easier for patients to understand and plan for upcoming bills. Those that proactively meet and exceed patient demand for clearer pricing information will garner more patient trust and loyalty, and in turn, secure an important competitive advantage in a challenging economic context.
Why are patients calling for greater price transparency?
For many patients, the process of paying for healthcare is like trying to find their way through a maze, with numerous twists and turns and no clear path forward. Unlike most other purchasing decisions, patients lack upfront information about the options in front of them. Many do not fully understand the cost of care, and as a result, may not be aware of or prepared for the forthcoming financial burden. This lack of transparency causes uncertainty and unease, leading to postponed care or missed payments.
With transparent pricing, patients can make more informed decisions and choose the most cost-effective options. Those with high out-of-pocket expenses can shop around for services that best fit their budget and estimate the cost of care in advance. Transparent pricing is especially important for patients with chronic conditions or those who require ongoing care.
Are providers meeting the demand for price transparency?
Many providers have embraced the push for transparent pricing, by introducing upfront patient estimates and tools to help patients understand and manage their bills. Transparency may be a requirement under the Hospital Price Transparency Final Rule, but providers are also incentivized by the promise of faster payments and fewer time-consuming billing queries.
However, implementation of price transparency measures has been patchy: as of August 10, 202, only 16% of hospitals were compliant with the rule. In a podcast interview for Becker’s Hospital Review with Riley Matthews, Lead Product Manager at Experian Health, Jamie Cleverley, President of Cleverley + Associates, suggests two main obstacles:
- confusion around what information needs to be disclosed (more on this below)
- concerns that sharing pricing information could negatively affect revenue.
The second concern is valid, but evidence suggests that disclosing prices to patients can save money, by reducing unnecessary hospitalizations, readmissions and emergency visits. Missed payments are less likely if patients feel in control of their financial situation. In fact, research by Experian Health and PYMNTS suggests that upfront cost estimates improve patient satisfaction by 88%, which encourages prompter payments.
Delivering a better patient experience with accessible pricing information
To help healthcare organizations meet patient demands for clearer pricing and ensure compliance with the federal rule, Experian Health and Cleverley + Associates have teamed up to provide a standardized solution.
Listen in as Jamie Cleverley, President of Cleverley + Associates, and Riley Matthews, Lead Product Manager at Experian Health, discuss how a new partnership is helping providers comply with the Price Transparency Rule
Each organization brings its specific expertise to help healthcare providers provide clear and compliant pricing information:
- Experian Health’s Self-Service Patient Estimates tool enables compliance with the requirement to display payer-specific rates as a consumer-friendly list of 300 shoppable items. This tool gives patients upfront, accurate estimates that are easy to understand so that they can make informed choices about their care.
- Cleverley + Associates helps providers make pricing information available as a machine-readable file, quickly and at scale, so providers can fulfill the requirement to display such files on their website.
The solution is neatly packaged to save providers from engaging in discussions with multiple vendors or scrambling to find internal solutions for each individual requirement. Cleverley says that working with the two organizations together can save providers time and stress:
“We have the information and the technical capacity to offer a format we think is useful, which complies with all the rules. There’s anxiety around this – providers worry about whether CMS will view [their solutions] as compliant. But with us, they’re working with trusted partners that have had those conversations with CMS, that have released these files already and that have been through the audit process.”
For Matthews, this adds up to a user-friendly experience that’s not only compliant but gives patients what they need:
“We needed to provide a patient-facing estimate-creating solution that shows those top 300 shoppable services for a hospital or a doctor’s office. We were able to do that through our existing product, Self-Service Patient Estimates. We have this portal that we can integrate with our clients’ websites, which guides patients through the entire process. What we did not have – and where Cleverley came in – were those complex machine-readable files… So, we were able to come in from both sides with price transparency and say, ‘ok, now we solve both, and we’re here to provide a holistic solution.’”
From compliance to competitive advantage
Penalties for non-compliance with the Price Transparency Rule may have been limited to date, but this may change as the rule reaches its second anniversary. Furthermore, some states are starting to bring in their own legislative measures to protect patients from opaque billing practices. And with patient expectations clearly stated, the pressure on providers to deliver transparency is mounting.
But as noted, this is about more than compliance. Patients are looking for a clear and compassionate financial experience and will reward providers that deliver this. Providers should consider how to keep patients informed and empowered at every stage of the financial journey. Experian Health offers a suite of payment tools designed to achieve this, which bring together accurate estimates, tailored payment plan recommendations and convenient payment options.