Many in the medical community are getting on board with providing patients with a list of prices for types of care, as well as cost estimations, to facilitate timely patient payments. The goal of price transparency is to help patients make better financial decisions as more health care organizations start to realize they cannot hold on to the old way of billing patients. Not having marked prices at a supermarket and only seeing the bill a month later doesn’t fly in other industries, and some in health care don’t believe such billing practices work in their industry either.

According to The Roanoke Times, a local physician practice now provides a list of prices in its waiting room to help patients understand their care costs. The practice adopted price transparency to encourage timely patient payments and create a better patient experience. Taking such a step isn’t as easy for hospitals as it is for independent or group practices due to larger patient volumes and more complicated cases, but that doesn’t mean hospitals can ignore the trend or not provide patients with cost estimations.

Physician practice welcome price transparency
According to the news source, a physician practice recently opened in Roanoke County, Va., and decided to list its prices to help the practice ensure high patient satisfaction and strong patient payments right from the start. While the list is mostly for those paying for care out of pocket, the three independent physicians in the practice noted price transparency helps all patients make better decisions about their care and the costs of that care. It might even encourage those with high deductibles to simply pay cash up front for common services, benefiting patients and medical centers alike.

“Most people want to be responsible and they want to pay their bill, but they want to know how much it will be,” Dr. Scott Crosby, one of the physicians in the practice, told the news source.

While price transparency isn’t a new concept in health care, many hospitals are adverse to the notion of giving patients access to care prices. Jay Andrews, vice president of financial policy for the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, told the news source taking the concept of price transparency into larger medical environments tends to be more difficult.

“What someone charges is really irrelevant to what gets reimbursed by many of the insurance plans,” Andrews said. “You don’t know whether you will be in for two days, three days or four days. So it’s really very difficult to say: ‘This is what it’s going to cost.'”

Some in the health care community have even argued price transparency may drive up health care costs and not be financially doable for hospitals. According to an article for the Association of Health Care Journalists, Joseph Burns, an independent reporter, wrote lower-paid physicians may start to ask for higher rates from insurers and, in turn, drive up premiums, only compounding the problem of expensive care. However, price transparency can encourage cost competition, effectively causing better care at more affordable prices.

Why hospitals need to get on board
Health systems should consider price transparency through cost estimations as a way to better inform patients about the costs of care, a courtesy many patients continue to ask for. South Carolina has already created a website of the prices at 60 state hospitals because more patients are coming forward asking for the information, FierceHealthFinance reported. Even if the hospital is unable to provide patients with the exact portion of the bill they will be responsible for, creating better transparency about costs through easy-to-read estimations helps improve patient satisfaction and increases the chances of timely patient payments – two problems so many hospitals continue to face.