Last week, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released the results of a price and transparency study.
Though I do not have access to the full study, I read the brief excerpt including this:
Conclusions and Relevance: Among employees at 2 large companies, offering a price transparency tool was not associated with lower health care spending. The tool was used by only a small percentage of eligible employees.
Anyone else have a “whoa” moment after reading this? (I’m guessing it will only be the health care geeks out there who have this moment.)
With the continued rise of high deductible plans and the push towards consumer directed health (where a member/patient takes a more active role in shopping for and consuming health care services), the need for a cost and transparency solution was a market need eventually met by a number of organizations.
Coupled with the exchange phenomenon – both private and public – and it appeared the market would be drawn to such tools in droves. But as this study shows, people are not using the tools.
Should we be surprised at this conclusion? No, we shouldn’t.
We can push transparency and we can offer incentives. We can conduct payment reform and change how we pay for healthcare. We can insure the entire country and set up national work groups to look at quality, efficiency and costs. And perhaps tools and services will be brought to the market to help in these areas.
But if the patient doesn’t get engaged, then you may (still) see a consumer make a poor decision by not questioning a referral to a particular doctor or hospital. You may (still) see a patient select the lowest quality, highest cost hospital for a particular condition.
Engagement has been missing – and it appears it still is. Until we have an engaged health care consumer, price and transparency tools (along with anything else brought to market) will continue to see low utilization.