I can recall reading several news reports lately about the need for health care pricing transparency. It seems that the story usually begins by laying out the need for transparency to encourage individuals to shop around for medical care and to become better consumers of health care services. Next, the story usually shifts to a health system executive who talks about how their pricing is all out on the company website, but that hardly anyone goes there to find out what things cost, and therefore, the whole idea will just never catch on.
Well, yeah, if I have cancer, or if I am having a heart attack, I am not going to go to some hospital system’s website to shop prices on procedures I know nothing about, or may, or may not need. But, let’s say I have a sore ankle and a high deductible insurance plan. I would certainly shop for someone who will check out my pain and recommend treatment — especially if they made it easy for me to do and to understand.
Ankle pain? Click on the matching body part and two options pop up. For $199, doctors at Sports and Orthopaedic Specialists will check out your ankle, review your medical history and recommend treatment. TRIA Orthopaedic Center lists a similar package for $213 — and a reminder that they are the team doctors for the Vikings and Timberwolves. What did patients think? Read user reviews. Will your health plan pay? Tap in your details and find out.
Now that is consumerism and that is transparency delivered in a way that a layperson can understand and at a price point where it makes sense for an individual to spend some time shopping around. Not too many people ever tried booking their own flights on the green screens of the old Saber System. Nor did they shop for the best fares when there was a travel agent (insert insurance carrier) sitting between them and the information.
This once again shows that innovation in health care is not going to be driven by the big carriers and the big health care providers. It will come from small entrepreneurial groups like the team that created Carol.com. Why Carol? Because it just sounds friendly. That alone tells me that Carol.com is light years closer to the consumer on this issue than all the large systems who think that they are being transparent with their pricing by putting data out a website in what amounts to no more than a dump of procedures and billed charges on today’s equivalent of a green screen.