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    It’s time to champion healthcare price transparency


    Fortunately, price information is gradually becoming more widely available to patients. Medicare patients can see chargemaster prices online for common inpatient procedures. Other websites offer similar information for outpatient fees.

    While it would be virtually impossible for a physician to know what each patient is obligated to pay for each service, given the myriad negotiated rates and contracts that exist, doctors can (and should) advance the cause of healthcare cost control.  An article in the AMA Journal of Ethics says doctors “have an ethical obligation to ‘do no harm’ by reducing waste and identifying and helping patients who are at risk for financial harm.” 

    By reducing waste, it ensures all clinical decisions are actually going to make patients better. The move to value-based payment models, which focuses on clinical outcomes, versus traditional fee-for-service compensation, should help propel this philosophy into the mainstream.

    Meanwhile, those of us on the technology side can develop ways to present cost and price data in a useful context to physicians, particularly in EHRs and related applications. That will increase both awareness of and sensitivity to cost issues that increasingly may affect patients’ care choices.

    Maintaining a system in which there is no cost information available to the parties most intimately involved with the healthcare transaction—patients and physicians—is a non-starter. It provides for no accountability, which is a recipe for continued disaster. It has to change.  


    Paul Brient is the chief executive officer of PatientKeeper, Inc., a provider of healthcare applications for physicians. 


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