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Price Transparency Strategy Needs Improvement | MedScape

Although patients support healthcare price shopping in theory, few are doing it, dampening hopes that price transparency alone will drive down escalating healthcare costs, say authors of a health policy report published online April 4 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Ateev Mehrotra, MD, MPH, from Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues note that previous research has shown only 1% to 12% of patients who were offered transparency tools online or through an app used them. Those who did use them rarely did so before they got care.

Patients like the idea and do not seem fearful that lower prices will mean lower quality, the authors say. But rather than shopping for better-value care as they navigate increasingly higher-deductible plans, consumers are more commonly deciding whether to have the care at all.

The authors spell out some of the barriers to price shopping and suggest that some other reforms, namely, tiered networks and reference pricing, may be more successful.

Jeffrey T. Kullgren, MD, assistant professor at University of Michigan Medical School and the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation in Ann Arbor, told Medscape Medical News that before giving up on price transparency and seeking better strategies, consumers need to be better trained on how to compare healthcare prices and how to think of shopping for healthcare in the same way they shop for other goods.

Barriers to Price Shopping
The researchers say that among the top barriers to uptake of price shopping are that patients are reluctant to change from the provider they know, and many want to stay in the same health system because they feel it will better coordinate their care.

Also, high-deductible plans often offer little incentive to look for lower prices because many patients know their yearly spending will be higher than their deductible, they add.

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Price Transparency Strategy Needs Improvement.