Study suggests targeted marketing, other strategies may increase use of price transparency tools

Healthcare organizations are increasingly introducing price transparency tools to help consumers determine the cost of their care. However, these tools are not highly utilized, suggests a study published in INQUIRY: The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing.

Researchers examined use of one price transparency tool — the Truven Treatment Cost Calculator — among employees at two large companies for a year following each company's introduction of the tool. One company introduced the Truven Treatment Cost Calculator in April 2011, while the other company introduced the tool in January 2012. The companies used various marketing efforts during open enrollment and used incentives to encourage sign-ups for the tool, according to the study.

Eleven percent of families offered the tool, or 7,885 families, used it at least once, according to the study. Fewer families — 854 (1 percent) — used the tool at least three times. Researchers also found greater use was linked to factors such as younger age, living in a higher income community and having a higher deductible. They said they also found greater use of the tool was linked to families with moderate annual out-of-pocket medical spending between $1,000 and $2,779.

"Consistent with prior work, we find use of this price transparency tool is low and not sustained over time. Employers and payers need to pursue strategies to increase interest in and engagement with healthcare price information, particularly among consumers with higher medical spending," the study authors concluded.


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