Healthcare price-checking still no easy task for consumers: 5 things to know

Despite the number of online resources tailored for healthcare consumers, few have information on the cost of common medical procedures, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study explored online search results to determine the extent of available price information for common medical procedures. Researchers used Google and Bing to check prices of non-emergency medical interventions, such as cholesterol tests, hip replacements and MRI scans.

The study conducted searches for eight cities, which included New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Baltimore; Charlotte, N.C.; Manchester, N.H.; and Tallahassee, Fla.  

Here are five findings from the study:

1. Out of 1,726 websites that resulted from 64 searches, 1,346 websites were not advertisements. Out of these 1,346, 17 percent provided geographically relevant price information.

2. Only 22 percent of websites in the study's search results were designed to explain pricing for a specific medical intervention.

3. Approximately 17 percent of websites did not offer any information that appeared to be related to pricing or health costs.

4. The availability of online price information appeared to vary by region. For example, 27 percent of websites in Chicago offered locally relevant price information whereas roughly 7 percent of websites in Baltimore did the same.

5. Few websites specified if the quoted price was the consumer's out-of-pocket cost. For example, cholesterol testing prices in Chicago ranged from $25 to $100, brain MRIs ranged from $230 to $1,950 and hip replacements ranged from $27,000 to $80,671.

More articles on patient engagement:
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