10 Characteristics of Effective Healthcare Price Transparency Tools

Catalyst for Payment Reform identifies key features of effective price transparency tools.

As healthcare spending continues to skyrocket and patients pay increasingly more out-of-pocket for their care, the call for healthcare providers to embrace price transparency has grown louder, and a variety of healthcare transparency tools have emerged to help demystify the cost of care for patients.

Catalyst for Payment Reform — an independent nonprofit organization for employers and others advocating for high-value healthcare — has developed a list of features that make price transparency products useful to both employer-purchasers and consumers.

1. The product is easy to use. As evidenced by the success of Apple, user interface is important for electronic and Web-based products, according to Catalyst. The best tools have easy-to-read graphics, highlight important information and use simple language, as well as feature other user-friendly characteristics.

2. The tool should allow people to understand their share of the cost, the total cost and spending and utilization to date. Most employers want workers to make better decisions about their care based on cost information. The best transparency products should present comprehensive information in a way that could encourage consumers to shop around for affordable options, according to Catalyst.

3. The product shows quality measures consumers care about, based on the latest information. Catalyst recommends health plans and independent vendors continuously review the data sources and quality measures they use for their price transparency products. This will ensure the transparency tools are consistently comprehensive and meaningful to their users.

4. The product lets people perform a side-by-side price and quality comparison. Consumers have an easier time selecting the highest-quality provider at the lowest cost if they can view provider price and quality information in a side-by-side format on a single screen.

5. The tool helps people understand and identify value. Today's price transparency tools need to evolve to ensure consumers understand the concept of value and can pinpoint the highest-value providers, according to Catalyst. For instance, the products could use a value symbol or overall score along with an explanation that choosing the highest-quality, more efficient provider would mean less time spent undergoing unneeded procedures.

6. The product should include information on pharmacy and ancillary services, as well as information to help older patients and those with chronic conditions. Chronic disease accounts for 75 percent of healthcare spending in the U.S. Therefore, price transparency tools should be designed to help those with chronic conditions. Additionally, they should provide adequate information on prescriptions and ancillary services that represent key areas of high spending for older people.

7. The tool should help consumers avoid unneeded care. An effective price transparency product should prompt users to avoid unneeded care and find less expensive care options, such as having an X-ray done in a non-hospital setting. Product developers could use information from the Choose Wisely campaign as a resource.

8. The product should encourage people to use it. Employers, health plans and vendors can all play a part in getting people to use price transparency products. For instance, Catalyst has recommended pairing the tools with a benefits strategy that gives people an incentive to shop around for the highest value care.

9. The product should integrate well with other products. Seamless integration with other products could lead to more consumer utilization, according to Catalyst. It's easier for people to visit one website or platform to access all of their health information than it is for them to go to different locations.

10. The tool should give employers useful information about utilization and savings. It's crucial for product purchasers such as employers to be able to evaluate how well the tool is working. Therefore, health plans and vendors should supply reports about the use and impact of their products.

More Articles on Healthcare Price Transparency:
Unveiling the Cost of Care: How Transparency Changes the Patient Perspective
Providers, Patients and Finances: New Guidelines Offer a Roadmap for Communication
Opening Up: How Pricing Transparency Will Change Hospital Benchmarking 

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