Trust is critical in any relationship, from love to business. Patients trust hospitals in their most desperate times of need. Health systems expend enormous budgets measuring trust with satisfaction surveys once a patient is discharged. But health system leaders still have not quite figured out the final frontier that’s critical to patient trust: meaningful price transparency. This is what quells patients’ anxieties over their medical costs and out-of-pocket obligations.

Research proves patients are unhappy about financial interactions with their health system, both before care and after care. A recent Deloitte white paper noted that 60% of patients are more likely to choose a medical provider who published prices upfront. It’s not to say industry experts haven’t warned us about the problem. In a white paper on healthcare payments published more than a decade ago, McKinsey & Company advised:

“…an overhaul still awaits. The system remains highly fragmented and inefficient, consuming a disproportionate share of health care dollars compared with payment systems in other industries. Unlike scale utility solutions that have emerged in financial services or telecom, innovative solutions have failed to take hold at scale (in healthcare).” 

What Patients Think About Price Transparency

Patients are getting restless. Patients are tired of waiting for true price transparency in healthcare. While the new CMS rules require health systems to publish rates on their 300 most “shoppable services,” a growing body of survey data shows that patients want more from their healthcare providers.

– Of patients who have received a price estimate before care, 70% said it factored into their decision to move forward with treatment, according to Patientco’s 2020 State of the Patient Financial Experience Report. In other words, the deciding factor of whether a patient chooses to receive care hinges on price transparency.

– Some 74% of patients said they would rather pay $50 out-of-pocket than not know the cost of a primary care visit, according to the Advisory Board’s Primary Care Consumer Choice Survey. In other words, patients are willing to pay for price transparency. Clearly, patients value the ability to plan and prepare for their self-pay obligations.

Evidence suggests that not many people use the current price transparency tools available to them. For instance, a study by The American Journal of Managed Care found that patients are frustrated with existing price transparency tools because they are not personalized enough.

Why Health Systems Should Care About Price Transparency

Modern Healthcare reported that Baylor Scott & White Health increased its point-of-service collections by 60% since they started providing price estimates. But, there are indirect benefits of price transparency as well. Price transparency empowers patients in several ways.

– Patients want to be more involved in cost of care decisions. The days of patient indifference about care costs are coming to an end. A 2018 study found that today’s consumers are most worried about medical costs, more so than retirement, higher education, housing, and child care. Addressing cost concerns remains largely an untapped opportunity for hospitals and price transparency will play an important role.

– Trust – above all, don’t forget about trust. Patients want to understand what they are paying for and why. We shouldn’t expect patients to decipher a confusing Explanation of Benefits after care. That is one of the surest ways to spoil an otherwise good patient experience. Instead, it’s time to help patients upfront, before care. This patient-centric approach to price transparency, which minimizes confusion, frustration and surprises on their final bill, is key for health systems to build trust with patients.

Break Down Barriers to Care & Build Trust with Patients

Price transparency helps patients feel empowered, instead of anxious, when they seek out medical care. And when patients feel empowered and satisfied with their healthcare experience, they are more likely to return to your health system for their future care needs. They’ll also be more likely to refer friends and family to a health system they trust. 

Does your health system strive to inspire patient trust through price transparency? Check out three ways you can get started in Patientco’s latest white paper.

Meet the Author: John W. Mitchell’s job titles have ranged from sailor in the U.S. Navy (broadcast-journalist aboard an aircraft carrier) to COO and CEO for several hospitals. In 2009, HealthLeaders Media named John and his senior executive team the Top Leadership Team in Healthcare for turning around a 90-bed, regional Washington hospital. In 2012, he started his own business, SnowPack Public Relations. John is widely published as a freelance reporter and writer in the hospital, healthcare, and medical sectors. More recently, his projects include writing content on behalf of Patientco. John is also the author of the novel Medical Necessity (four stars on Amazon), and he is a commercially successful landscape and wildlife photographer.