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Four ways to add transparency to the patient journey

December 14, 2021
Business Affairs
Ryne Natzke
By Ryne Natzke

A recent decision by the federal government to delay enforcing its new price transparency rule for hospitals has brought renewed focus to the subject of healthcare transparency.

The rule, from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), requires hospitals to post clear, accessible pricing information online about the items and services they provide. The rule compels hospitals to do this in two ways: first, as a comprehensive machine-readable file with all items and services and, second, in a display of shoppable services in a consumer-friendly format.

Despite regulations calling for the rule to take effect Jan. 1, 2021, CMS recently announced that it had not issued any fines over lack of compliance and had no immediate plans to do so. The lack of fines is not because hospitals have adhered to the rule: A recent analysis from PatientRightsAdvocate.org revealed that more than six months after the rule’s implementation, 94% of hospitals were noncompliant.

Transparency: An opportunity for providers
For providers unable or unwilling to deliver greater price transparency, they are missing an opportunity to create a more consumer-centric version of healthcare – which is something consumers are thirsting for. In one consumer survey, 91% of the 1,300 respondents said they believe hospitals and healthcare facilities should be required to publicly disclose the costs of their services, while 66% said they believe price transparency will improve healthcare.

With so many consumers relying on online tools for shopping, banking, and other tasks, it’s not surprising that patients desire a similarly frictionless experience for healthcare. Patients want the ability to shop for services, make appointments, ask follow-up questions, and pay for care all in one place. However, fewer than one in 10 healthcare organizations are achieving optimal levels of consumer-centric care, according to a survey of over more than 110 healthcare executives.

Providers who can distinguish themselves from their peers by delivering a superior, more transparent, retail-like consumer experience have the potential to drive greater patient satisfaction and even higher patient volumes. In that spirit, following are four ways providers can create more transparency – for pricing and more – throughout the patient journey.

Offer self-scheduling: Today’s consumer has become accustomed to having the option to self-schedule appointments for haircuts, restaurant reservations, oil changes and more - and now expects the same convenience from their healthcare providers. Healthcare certainly presents more complex challenges than other sectors because, for example, certain specialists only see subsets of patients or have to balance office visits with surgery schedules. However, by implementing some form of self-scheduling tools, providers can deliver a more consumer-centric experience for patients.

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