Will plastic surgeons lead the price transparency revolution?

Plastic surgeons, longtime participants in the self-pay healthcare sector, have traditionally avoided providing pricing information online. However, online price transparency can be beneficial to providers and their patients, according to a recent study published in Annals of Plastic Surgery.

The study, authored by Jonathan L. Kaplan, MD, and Parker H. Mills, PhD, took place during Dr. Kaplan's first year in a new private practice in San Francisco. At the start of that first year, an interactive cost estimator was integrated into his practice website, allowing consumers to submit a "wishlist" of procedures they were interested in checking prices for online. However, consumers was required to disclose their contact information to receive the desired breakdown of costs that are tailored based on Dr. Kaplan's medical fees, according to the study.

During that first year, without spending money on advertising, the author's website received 412 wishlists from 208 unique consumers. The study found that 17.8 percent of consumers who submitted a wishlist came in for a consultation and 62 percent of those booked a procedure.

Overall, all of the leads from the online price estimator took in that first year generated more than $92,000 in revenue for Dr. Kaplan's practice.

When compared with non-price-aware patients, price-aware patients were 41 percent more likely to book a procedure, the study found. Price transparency led to greater efficiency and reduced consultations that ended in surprise medical bills.

The study's authors concluded there are a number of benefits to online price transparency, including that patients receiving pricing information they seek, plastic surgeons receiving contact information for follow-up and patients having realistic price expectations when they schedule consultations.

"Plastic surgeons ...are better poised to promote price transparency initiatives," the authors wrote. "From a financial perspective, there is no difference between the breast augmentation patient and the patient with a high deductible health plan seeking a full-body MRI. For this reason, plastic surgeons should naturally lead the price transparency revolution — but will they?"

Dr. Kaplan will present results from this study at the Becker's ASC 23rd Annual Meeting: The Business and Operations of ASCs Oct. 29.

 

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