- Consumers are increasingly willing to shop around for healthcare, forcing hospitals to think like retailers to retain their business, according to a report released Tuesday by PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI).
- A HRI 2015 survey found nearly 40% of American adults had contacted multiple doctors and health systems about prices, up 30% from 26% the previous year.
- Driving this trend are higher deductibles and other cost-sharing measures consumers are facing today, which is causing some consumers to shop around, "diverting business away from health systems and toward standalone operations that advertise their prices and services," according to the report.
Hospitals often are unaware that insurers are nudging patients toward lower-cost providers until they start to lose volume for commodity-type services, such as lab work and imaging procedures, the report says. Yet costs can vary markedly. A wrist X-ray in Maine costs just $52 at an imaging center, versus $255 at one hospital. In Concord, NH, consumers pay $16,00 for an MRI at a hospital, but only $1,200 at a standalone imaging center in a nearby town.
As a result, HRI talked with chief strategy and financial officers who have implemented price quotes, simplified billing, consumer outreach, money back guarantees and other competitive strategies. What they found were some are reducing charges, simplifying billing, among other efforts.
For example, INTEGRIS’ Priceline tool offers estimates for about 240,000 outpatient procedures a year and links patients to financial planners. The Priceline quotes are within 3% to 5% of the final charge and have helped INTEGRIS steer patients to more affordable clinicians within its network, the report says. INTEGRIS’ point-of-service collections grew from $1 million in 2008 to $18 million last year.
In another case, Geisinger Health System’s Proven Experience program provides price quotes, a one-stop web portal with patient information and a single, simplified hospital bill. Geisinger also agrees to return a portion of the cost if patients are unhappy with their care.
To stem the flow of patients to cheaper retail and standalone clinics, PwC recommends hospitals consider bundling services, see how their charges compare with the competition, and assess the impact of any pricing revisions on total reimbursement.