It’s the healthcare word of the year and the biggest cultural change in healthcare we have seen in decades.
We know the cost of healthcare has increased dramatically over the last few years.
The reasons for the increase are many or, depending on your political leanings, one. If nothing else positive has come out of this, the ability for the consumer to actual see where their healthcare dollars are going is a big step forward. Transparency means the ability to see through something. Healthcare costs have been one of the biggest secrets in this country, not just from the consumer, but between physicians and insurance companies and large medical companies and their employees. With all the new transparency laws, we are all learning and saving more.
If you have ever been a part of a large healthcare company, you know that they are constantly preaching savings and cost control. How do you do this if the people who use the supplies don’t know how much anything cost? It’s like sending a child into a store and saying “don’t spend too much but make sure all your friends are happy”. It doesn’t work.
Now hospitals are starting to post the cost of supplies either on the packaging or on order lists. Seeing that price is making people more thoughtful about use and waste. If that child knew he could get 5 candies for a dollar or one (almost the same) for the same price, we know which deal he would go with.
We don’t change that much.
Transparency between the healthcare providers and their patients is bringing on a whole new set of determined and educated consumers. They can now see what they are paying for consults, procedures, surgeries, and rehab care before they make a decision who to treat with. This helps regulate the costs, prevents price gouging and above all, gives the patient the feeling of control over their care. They will be much less likely to have complaints, or poor outcomes, if they have the physician, facility and service they chose themselves. One rather interesting outcome of all this has been the fact that patients are learning how much their physician actually makes per procedure and they are shocked. Not by how much, but by how little.
For physicians still participating in government and managed care plans, their compensation is surprisingly low. For example, a patient saw a comprehensive bill for a hip replacement and assumed their physician was receiving a large portion of the payment . They are now aware that in many cases the physician gets approximately 2-3 % of that initial charge. That includes a pre-op visit, the surgery, the hospital visits and 3 months of post-op visits. No wonder these physicians see 45pts/day and you are given so little time to discuss your concerns.
This is where personalized medicine comes in. You may pay more up front but you save money and time avoiding unnecessary treatments, tests and procedures. When a surgeon has time, and your trust, they can actually personalize a plan just for you. Knowing your cost and saving up front makes transparency one of the best things to happen to a consumer in a long time.
- Sadigh G, Carlos RC, Krupinski EA, Meltzer CC, Duszak R Jr. Health Care Price Transparency and Communication: Implications for Radiologists and Patients in an Era of Expanding Shared Decision Making. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2017 Jul 25;:1-6. PubMed PMID: 28742372