Friday, February 8, 2013

Transparency + Accountability

I celebrate the efforts of the state of Massachusetts to advance price transparency within health care. With the wide variety of health plan alternatives and benefit designs it has never been easy for consumers to estimate what their out of pocket costs will be before accessing elective care. In many, maybe most cases, the information is not available.

Truven Health data analysis has shown wide and unexplained variation in the cost of the same service within metropolitan service areas - sometimes this variation can be three fold or more, and patients are generally unaware of this. Providing online tools to disclose a price is a good start. Enhancing these tools to allow for price comparisons is the next step. Studies show that tools like our Treatment Cost Calculator have the potential to significantly reduce total health care costs for employers by providing their workers the ability to compare prices.

The ultimate goal should be to offer the patient quality assessments as well as cost comparisons so consumers can select their providers based on value. Then the burden for better outcomes of care shifts at least in part to the consumer who needs to be accountable for evaluating the information available and making the best choice. If they exercise this ability, health care delivery will need to respond with a more healthy marketplace competition previously not seen in the medical industry. Providers will need to pursue the most efficient and effective pathways to attract patients and keep them.

Price transparency is an important step in this necessary direction.
 
Ray Fabius MD
Chief Medical Officer




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