It’s clear that the time for price transparency is now…but what does price transparency really mean in health care? HFMA president and CEO makes the case that healthcare leaders need to define what transparency will mean for the industry.

 

Joe Fifer

The rumblings about price transparency in the media have been growing louder over the past year. Although many stakeholders have “one foot on the dock and one in the boat,” almost all have started moving in the direction of greater transparency. We know that transparency is the wave of the future. And while the focus has been on transparency’s benefits to consumers, it’s important to realize that educated and engaged healthcare decision-makers hold the key to success for both providers and payers going forward. If we approach transparency the right way, we can continue to earn consumers’ trust and stay aligned with them in a value-based world.

But we’re not there yet…

Embracing the Agenda

For starters, we should fully embrace the transparency agenda. We must not resist or remain agnostic on the issue. We’ve known for a long time that organizations should develop a culture that embraces transparency. That means going the extra mile to make price information easily accessible to consumers.

For consumers, the bottom line is what they will be expected to pay out of pocket for their health care. And that should be the focus of our price transparency efforts. Health plans are in the best position to provide that information to their members while hospitals are best equipped to provide it to uninsured patients. These are among the key points agreed on in a report issued by a multi-organizational price transparency task force convened by HFMA. (Get more information about this.) The task force also agreed that a commitment to transparency and collaboration among stakeholders is essential to achieving transparency, no matter who serves as the point of access to the consumer.

The good news is that everywhere I look, I see organizations that are already providing price information—and doing it right! While this involves an investment of resources up front, doing it the right way will ultimately make things easier for all stakeholders over the longer term.

Taking a Leadership Role

That leads me to the heart of the matter. What’s really at stake here is that we need to be the ones who define transparency. If healthcare leaders let others define it—the government, for example—then we lose the opportunity to connect directly with the consumer and provide information in a way that makes sense for all.

The media spotlight on this issue is not going to go away. Once upon a time, we might have been able to bury our heads in the sand when it came to price transparency. Those days—if they ever truly existed—are long gone. It’s time to take a proactive stance. Going forward, educated consumers will expect us to provide information about the price and value of services provided. We know that this is our ultimate destination. The only question is how we will get there. Will it be “kicking and screaming” and fighting every change? Or will it be through leading the change and innovating in a way that engages consumers and benefits all parties involved?

When we look back at this moment years from now, nobody will wish they had done less. Nobody will wish we had let somebody else chart the course ahead. Instead, we will be glad we showed leadership and helmed the transition to a more transparent healthcare system.

Publication Date: Thursday, May 15, 2014