Health IT Pulse

Mar 19 2013   11:42AM GMT

Lack of transparency in patient healthcare costs

Alex Delvecchio Alex Delvecchio Profile: Alex Delvecchio

Tags:
EHR cost
health care costs
HIE
price transparency
state HIEs

With rising healthcare costs in the spotlight, more stakeholders are calling for greater price transparency at provider facilities. But if a recent report is any indication, states have a ways to go toward improving laws requiring transparency.

Only 2 states have adequate healthcare price transparency requirements in place, while 29 have no transparency at all and received “F” grades in a report by the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute (HCI3). States were graded on their ability to supply patients with pricing information, including whether they required publication of public reports on pricing information and if that information was posted on a public website. Massachusetts and New Hampshire were the only two states to receive adequate “A” grades.

Cutting costs while increasing efficiency has been the focus among of several initiatives, such as health information exchanges. HIEs appeal to both patients and providers because of their role in decreasing the cost of care. An organization affiliated with an HIE also indicates some level of price transparency to potential patients, because HIEs can demonstrate where they are saving costs. The Maine state HIE displayed better overall care coordination, resulting in fewer tests and visits for patients, which in turn lower costs for all involved.

HIEs come at a price themselves, however, despite their promise of reduced costs for patients and providers. Doctors in Colorado questioned whether they should continue their association with the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) after federal funding expired. CORHIO required an $85 monthly fee and between $2,500 and $5,000 for employee training. Those costs gave facilities, particularly small practices, reason to reconsider their HIE commitments. They were aware of the price of joining CORHIO, whereas patients often don’t enjoy that same luxury regarding the price of their care as evidenced by the HCI3 study.

Providers who are considering purchasing an EHR system must carefully consider the price before doing so, and whether the use of electronic systems can lead to better healthcare cost transparency. Specialists who don’t need a full EHR system have to be creative in finding one to support them. EHR systems with customizable modules are often more expensive than standard systems, so specialists have to make a choice of choice of cost over function. Tailored systems improve workflow efficiency for specialists in many ways, including narrowing medication options to those in specific fields.

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