Memorial Healthcare System CAO shares process behind patient finance initiative

Price transparency has become a key strategic priority for all hospitals hoping to stay competitive in a consumer-driven industry.

“The clinicians in our hospitals provide outstanding care in a patient-centered culture. We know the patient experience includes the totality of our interaction with them and that includes a predictable and transparent financial experience,” says Matthew Muhart, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Hollywood, Fla.-based Memorial Healthcare System. For MHS, that means delivering financial information to patients in a way that is familiar to the modern day consumer.

In December 2014, MHS launched an online price transparency tool that shares self-pay rates with prospective patients. The site initially featured rates for procedures with predictable outcomes, such as colonoscopies, lab tests and diagnostic tests. Today, published self-pay rates vary in complexity from basic imaging tests to bariatric surgical procedures, says Mr. Muhart.

Memorial expanded the site to include quality information in April 2015. This strategic marriage of quality and safety information, patient satisfaction metrics and self-pay rates is meant to illustrate both the qualitative and quantitative value of MHS' healthcare services to consumers, says Mr. Muhart. "We’re very proud of the quality and safety of our healthcare services, but not all of that data is easily understood by patients," he says. "We had to determine what quality information was most important to the consumer and how to deliver that information in an easily digestible way. To be sure we hit the mark, we engaged with members of our patient and family counsels to help design and review what and how we present our quality and financial information on the website"

By early 2017, the health system plans to launch an expanded version of the price tool capable of generating procedural cost estimates for insured patients, including out-of-pocket expenses and payer coverage.

Looking forward, MHS strives to curate a healthcare shopping experience similar to other consumer-oriented service providers like Amazon and Uber, says Mr. Muhart. Ideally, a patient will be able to log on to the MHS website and look up the relevant medical service, pick the hospital facility they want for the procedure, verify their insurance information, determine their out-of-pocket obligation, schedule the procedure and pay any upfront medical costs within a single website.

So far, MHS administrators are unable to determine the initiative's direct impact on patient volumes. However, the significant growth in web traffic to MHS' self-pay site suggests a positive patient reaction to its design, usability and content. Between June 2015 and May 2016, annual views of self-pay rates have increased by more than 420 percent, from 4,574 unique visitors to 23,777 unique visitors.

Mr. Muhart believes the health system's coupling of quality and cost information elevates MHS' standing within its regional healthcare community. In the long-term, MHS' progressive approach to transparency may be an important asset as competition for patients heats up.

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