Time to Let the Cost Cat Out of the Bag

This month the Hospital Price Transparency Rule went into effect, requiring hospitals to make public their payer-negotiated standard rates and pricing for 300 shoppable services in machine-readable formats.

While the rule doesn’t apply to private practices, there are two good reasons why independent and specialty providers should make an attempt at price transparency:
  • Not talking about costs comes across as nefarious.
  • Billing is the fourth most common complaint in negative doctor reviews.
We providers know full well that not only are we at the mercy of what payers are going to pay us despite the charge master, we have no idea what each and every patient’s insurance plan covers.

I have some ideas that will give your practice a shot in the arm against secrets:
  • Send emails and texts to patients before and after an appointment. Advise them to review or call their health insurance providers to check what’s covered (and not covered). Bring up the topic during the office visit, too.
  • Set up a pricing page on your website. In patient-friendly language, explain what premiums, deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance are. Explain, generally, how health insurance works. Acknowledge that your practice understands that medical billing can be confusing and your staff members are available for questions.
  • Offer convenient payment options. This means not only accepting cash, checks, credit cards, PayPal and Apple Pay in person and online but also offering reasonable, automated payment plans. Educate your staff on the practice’s financial policies.
Bottom line: Research has shown that it’s the gesture that counts. Making an effort at price transparency is an effective way to improve patient satisfaction, avoid bad online reviews and foster the doctor-patient relationship.
See more practice improvement tips from Dr. Baum
Neil H. Baum, MD, is medical advisor to Vanguard Communications and author of two books: Marketing Your Clinical Practice - Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, now in its 4th edition, and The Complete Business Guide to a Successful Medical Practice.

Dr. Baum has been dubbed "Dr. Wiz" for his love of magic and his urology specialty practice. 
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