Blog | Consumerism

TransUnion survey on consumerism: Healthcare consumers want to know the price of a service in advance

Blog | Consumerism

TransUnion survey on consumerism: Healthcare consumers want to know the price of a service in advance

  • The most recent TransUnion survey on consumerism provides evidence that patients want to know the price of a service in advance.
  • The same survey finds that 80% of consumers utilize a payer or provider website (or other resource) to research healthcare costs. And 47% of consumers choose a provider based on costs.
  • Only 53% of survey respondents reported being provided with clear out-of-pocket costs in advance of treatment and 48% report having “partial to no” understanding of their financial responsibility for their medical bill.

What do consumers want? That question is as old as commerce itself. In the case of healthcare services, the most recent TransUnion survey on consumerism provides evidence that patients want to know the price of a service in advance.

The survey finds that 80% of consumers utilize a payer or provider website (or other resource) to research healthcare costs. And 47% choose a provider based on costs.

However, the desire to get an estimate or understand their responsibility in advance often goes unmet. Only 53% of respondents report being provided with clear out-of-pocket costs in advance of treatment. Even worse, 48% report having “partial to no” understanding of their financial responsibility for their medical bill.

Takeaway

At the most basic level, the healthcare industry needs to provide this information to patients who want it because it’s the right thing to do. Doing so is also “pound wise,” as 65% of survey respondents are willing to make “at least a partial payment” if an estimate is provided in advance of service.

And given that demand for this information is high, if a potential patient can’t easily get an estimate from a provider, they’ll just cross them off the list. There is more at stake than potentially losing paying customers. Not providing an estimate and a clear upfront discussion of the patient financial responsibility/account resolution process causes other issues, such as:

  • Driving up the cost to collect (if you can collect once they leave the clinic)
  •  Reducing the opportunity to connect patients with either sources of coverage or financial assistance
  • Increasing bad debt write-offs

We continue to hear from our member CFOs and revenue cycle leaders about the importance of providing estimates in advance of service where possible and having clear patient financial communications either in advance of service or as soon as practical based on EMTALA and the patient’s clinical condition.

Those organizations that have increased the availability of price estimates and facilitate clear conversations about the account resolution process anecdotally report improvements in self-pay collections and patient satisfaction. Based on this feedback, one of the key changes to our recently revised Best Practices for Resolution of Medical Accounts was to incorporate these steps into the recommendations.

CMS’s price transparency requirements present an opportunity to further consumerism efforts. Forty-eight percent of HFMA’s members report that they are planning to use an online price estimation tool to meet the CMS mandate to post 300 “shoppable services.”

Price transparency resources from HFMA

HFMA provides its members with a wide range of resources to help them navigate the implementation challenges related to the price transparency requirements. These include:

Regulation summaries:

On-demand webinars:

Interactive implementation workshop:

       This is a five-week, 10-session workshop to help providers prepare for Jan. 1 and beyond.

Latest HFMA Community group:

      Access to this group requires HFMA membership. Sign in or join HFMA to participate in the full community experience.

About the Author

Chad Mulvany, FHFMA,

is director, healthcare finance policy, strategy and development, HFMA’s Washington, D.C., office.

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