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    This is why listing healthcare prices as a menu is dumb

    Editor's Note: Welcome to Medical Economics' blog section which features contributions from members of the medical community. These blogs are an opportunity for bloggers to engage with readers about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Jonathan Kaplan, MD, MPH, a board-certified plasic surgeon based in San Francisco, California. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Medical Economics or UBM Medica.

     

    Dr. Jonathan KaplanWhether it’s for cosmetic services or medically necessary procedures (before a deductible is met), knowing healthcare prices is important. Patients need to know their financial obligation and healthcare providers need to be sympathetic to their patient’s financial worries. So yes, providing healthcare pricing is important, but listing them in the form of a static menu is not helpful.

    So why is a static menu the wrong way to list healthcare prices?

    Take a look at the static menu of healthcare services and prices above. What strikes you (consumer or provider) as confusing? First, the ranges are huge, to the point of being useless. For example, the fat transfer to the face ranges from $2,500 to $6,500. What if I was a web developer and you, the healthcare provider or small business owner, wanted a new website and I told you it would be $12,500 to $26,500? You would politely or impolitely hang up the phone and move on to the next developer.Image courtesy of Dr. Kaplan

    Patients are no different. They want an  accurate estimate even if it isn’t necessarily an exact estimate. And that’s the problem with static menus. There’s an attempt to provide the patient with all potential prices and scenarios. But somewhere you cross over from a modicum of information into the realm of too much information that is overwhelming and inaccurate.

     

    Further reading: Easy tips for physicians to reduce billing errors

     

    Why do providers using static menus try and provide as much information as possible? Because they’re assuming the consumer will look at the pricing menu and move on. In other words, the provider believes that everyone checking costs is a price shopper (which isn’t true) and the doctor/facility won’t have the opportunity to offer more pricing and procedure education down the road. But if you have the consumer’s contact info, you’ll be able to follow up to provide more accurate information.

    Next: This is the right way to offer pricing info

    3 Comments

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    • [email protected]
      As an internist, it makes sense for me to have a price menu because my choices are much more limited. A 20 minute office visit is $65. A CMP is $22. An ECG is $30. My menus help patients a lot.
    • [email protected]
      I'll tell you what is really dumb. Basing this article upon a plastic surgeon who doesn't deal with insurance reimbursement for most of the procedures discussed.
    • UBM User
      Price transparency makes sense. While a plastic surgeon is more likely to be familiar with the out of pocket marketplace than those of us paid based on CMS or insurance determined fees, I balk at fee guidance from a plastic surgeon.

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