Editor’s Note: This post was written by Craig Mullen for HealthSparq and originally published on February 6, 2018
Would you buy a new car and drive it off the lot without knowing the cost? Or purchase a house without comparing prices of other properties in the neighborhood? Silly questions, right?
So, why do we as consumers/patients continue to buy treatments and services from health care providers without knowing the estimated costs and if we’ve selected the best venue of care?
When it comes to health care, I think a lot of the issue is related to our conditioning – we think to ourselves, ‘I’ve never known the cost of my treatments and visits, so it must just be how it is.’
However, in the past couple of years, consumers have become vastly more engaged in all aspects of their health care and expectations are increasing related to accessing cost estimates and quality scores. According to Accenture, 91 percent of health care consumers are looking to price information, but many providers don’t offer it—or it isn’t easily found.
Health systems have been hesitant to share pricing information with consumers, but are starting to become more strategic by empowering people with cost information and personalized recommendations of care. Many realize that being transparent is a critical component of building trust within their communities. With this trust, consumers are more likely to look to their health care provider for recommendations for the right venue of care (physician, telehealth, urgent care facility, etc.) and other decisions.
Recently, we commissioned research, asking health system leaders to define an optimal solution to address consumer demands and expectations. Most agreed the solution would need to be web-based and incorporate some type of mobile app capability. Various features and benefits were on their wish lists, including:
Robust, Interactive Tools
These include doctor and hospital ratings, price comparison calculators, assistance in understanding insurance benefits, online scheduling and translation/multi-language capabilities.
According to one participant, “We need patients to feel like this is not the health system bothering them, sending unwanted texts or spam. We need this to become a way that they engage with us so that they can’t be passive recipients,” he said.
Another executive summarized this aspect best, detailing, “We can order an Uber through an app. It should be as seamless as we’ve seen with everything else in our lives.”
In general, all participants worry that current digital solutions to patient engagement and cost transparency are too fragmented and not collaborative enough.
HealthSparq is focused on understanding and addressing consumers evolving health care needs and what’s important to them, such as – cost, convenience, provider and/or services. This insight can help them get the care they need by booking an appointment with the right provider or guiding the consumer to a location for immediate service (telehealth, urgent care, etc.).
Driving behavior change that delivers business outcomes for providers requires trust from patients. Sharing cost information is a win-win. If you’re giving patients guidance on care options and cost information in the process, they can make smarter choices – for their health and finances – and you gain their trust, loyalty and an educated patient who is engaged in their own health care.