Transparency in Health Care: The Time Has Come…Really

The Commonwealth Fund released a paper in early 2006, Transparency in Health Care: The Time Has Come.  More than six years later we are still without cost and quality transparency in healthcare.  The Commonwealth Fund set forth the reasons why price and quality transparency in healthcare is necessary, how information on pricing alone is of little value, and that it is imperative that we also have information on the quality or outcomes of care.

The information available is inadequate.  Learning of the costs after a service is rendered is not a service to the recipient. What would healthcare look like if all post service charges by each provider were available to the patient before the service was performed?  When you are looking to purchase a vehicle, do you sign the purchasing agreement before you get the final cost of the car?  Absolutely not!  You start your search by comparing the cost of nearly identical cars at several dealerships.  Information on cost alone would be a great facilitator of change in healthcare.

For example:

Would knowing that an MRI of the brain can cost $850 in one facility and $4,250 in another facility influence your decision on where to have the study? What if both facilities used the same equipment and both facilities employed board-certified, fellowship-trained neuroradiologists to read the study?

At this point in time, there is enough quality information available that it can be used to educate consumers. For example, the following quality indicators can be posted publicly:

  • Physician Licensure
  • Technologist Training
  • Board Certification(s)
  • Accreditation(s)
  • Procedures Performed
  • Equipment Information and Capabilities

In addition to these quality indicators, prices can also be listed. Without price and quality transparency consumers are not empowered to make educated choices about their own healthcare.

As a provider, how do you currently make decisions about the care you provide for your patients?

As a consumer, do you research price and quality when choosing a doctor or healthcare service?


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