Viewpoint: Transparency on care quality, cost can revolutionize healthcare

Ensuring patients, clinicians and payers have transparent interaction can significantly contribute to efforts in improving healthcare quality and controlling costs, two authors argue in a STAT op-ed.

Suzanne Delbanco, PhD, executive director of Catalyst for Payment Reform in Berkeley, Calif., and Tom Delbanco, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and cofounder of OpenNotes, explore the issue of transparency in healthcare, which is continually headed toward seeing patients as consumers.

Here are four insights from the op-ed.

1. Patients already seek, review and evaluate information gathered from multiple sources, with retail and service industries relying on consumer judgments for success, the authors noted. "Healthcare is headed in that direction, but it has a lot of catching up to do," the authors wrote. "Just 20 years ago, practically no information about the quality of healthcare providers was available, and just seven years ago it was almost impossible to find prices for something like knee replacement surgery before seeking care."

2. However, the authors provided several examples indicating how greater transparency lies on healthcare's horizon, including the bipartisan effort to increase the transparency of healthcare information and prices, CMS' MyHealthEData initiative to widen patients' access to EHRs and efforts in Massachusetts to make a one-stop shop for patients to see the prices of common medical tests and procedures.

3. Additionally, through OpenNotes, a movement that encourages healthcare transparency, millions of patients are reviewing and contributing to what clinicians write in their medical records. "Patients and families helped by such fully transparent electronic records describe improved communication, a greater sense of control, better adherence to treatment plans, and shared decisions that lead to more trust," the authors noted.

4. Transparent communication could also lead to fewer tests and less invasive therapies by providing care providers with an incentive to guide their patients toward value-based decisions. These decisions could include referrals to primary care clinicians and subspecialists recognized for higher quality care. "As patients and clinicians take the price of care into consideration, we expect that clinicians will soon be paid specifically for addressing a range of options with their patients," the authors noted.

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