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Join the Price Transparency Revolution
Are you ready to post your prices online? Your patients are watching and waiting.
Marty Makary, Jerry Hadlock
Publish Date: May 25, 2016
OR Excellence
Marty Makary, MD, MPH Marty Makary, MD, MPH

Speaker Profile

  • Surgical director of the Johns Hopkins Multidisciplinary Pancreas Clinic.
  • Author of bestseller Unaccountable, in which he proposes ways to fix the U.S. healthcare system.
Jerry Hadlock, CRNA Jerry Hadlock, CRNA

Speaker Profile

  • Director of anesthesia at St. George (Utah) Surgical Center.
  • Helped design an online price transparency platform for his center, one of the first in the nation to post its prices online.

Right now, you can go online and see the prices for almost anything — except medical care. But thanks to the growth of high-deductible insurance plans and increased pressure to cut sky-high medical costs, more surgical facilities are competing for patients by posting the prices for their most popular procedures online. Famed surgeon and television commentator Marty Makary, MD, MPH, and Jerry Hadlock, CRNA, will help you evaluate if price transparency is right for your facility, and review your options for implementing the idea.

  • A lack of transparency is harming health care. Think about it, says Dr. Makary: We wouldn't consider the current business model acceptable in any other setting. Take the supermarket. Imagine that you couldn't see the prices at the store until after the cashier charged you, and you weren't allowed to ask for a refund or take items back. Essentially, that's what we have in health care with nontransparent markets.
  • The rise of high-deductible insurance plans. When people were covered by insurance, transparent pricing was not important since they didn't have skin in the game, says Dr. Makary. Now, the biggest driver is high-deductible health insurance plans. The average deductible on Bronze plans in the health insurance exchange is $5,000 per household. Since patients are footing more of the bill directly, they are more interested in value.
  • Transparency is good for business. Since the St. George (Utah) Surgical Center began posting its prices online 2 years ago, they've attracted patients from all over the country, says Mr. Hadlock. Dr. Makary adds that while prices will likely come down over time as more facilities post their prices online, a facility that gets ahead of the curve now has a huge opportunity to grow its business.
  • Getting started. Start by posting prices for your procedures that are ideal candidates — those with a low risk of complications and minimal variability. Ideally the goal is to say to patients, "We'll give you a predictable price for a predictable procedure," says Mr. Hadlock. You'll first have to determine the true cost of your procedures.
  • More transparency is needed. Dr. Makary believes that quality transparency must accompany price transparency. "We're still in the process of developing sound metrics to judge quality, but that's where we're headed," he says. "People increasingly want to know that health care is a competent marketplace, not one that lacks transparency." St. George posted not only its prices, but also its infection rates and patient satisfaction scores. "If you combine all those transparency factors, consumers can make educated decisions about their care, which is what health care is all about," says Mr. Hadlock. OSM