Americans are "hungry" for price information (Part 2)

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Public Agenda is a non-profit organization founded in 1975 by social scientist and author Daniel Yankelovich and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. Over the years, Public Agenda established (not without controversy) its reputation as a provider of non-partisan research and insights into a number of critical issues such a public finances, education or healthcare.

This month the foundation released a report focusing on healthcare: costs and the way the american public interacts with cost information that is becoming trend-setting. The research was based on a nationally representative survey of 2,010 U.S. adults (ages 18+), conducted via telephone and online during the summer of 2014, followed by focus groups and selected semi-structured follow-up interviews. We have tried to highlight some of the more interesting aspects from their report.

In this blog we talk about the how people are looking for price information and what some of their expectations are in this regard.

How are people trying to find price information?

I guess sociologists can dissect better the reasons why americans trust some sources or information rather than the others. Even so, the results of this survey indicate that when it comes to healthcare costs we tend to trust our immediate social circle as sources on what to expect the bills should be for medical services. Staff in doctors’ offices - such as receptionists, the doctors themselves nurses and even nurses are considered to be another good source. People try their insurance company, either by phone or website showing implicitly their expectation that the insurer should offer easy access to costs; the same holds true, albeit to a lesser degree, for hospital billing departments.

Common
  sources for finding healthcare price information

Quite surprisingly, only 17% of people opt to search for price information on websites (other than their insurance companies) and only 26 % can remember those other websites’ names after using them. Websites need to ponder seriously on these percentages and figure out the reasons behind the numbers.

Public expectations for price information

Generally speaking, the answer to such a question is a no-brainer: easy to get and clearly stated for all to understand, this is how we all want the information to be when we look for it. Of course, when you get right down to details a survey such as this can make all the difference.

For instance, we find out that 69% of those surveyed say insurance companies should be required to make public how much they pay doctors for medical services. A pretty strong indicator that the american public wants price transparency even where it is isn’t affecting it directly. Furthermore, even people that never tried to find out a price before getting care have a strong preference towards transparency - 57% say they would like to know the prices of medical services in advance. Given the choice, 43% would choose less expensive doctors provided they knew the prices in advance.

Another interesting finding is that the vast majority of americans (~70%) do not believe that higher prices equate better-quality medical care. Doesn’t take a lot of thinking to see that when it comes to public perception the way the healthcare segment is managing its pricing policies is showing signs of eroding trust.

Regaining trust: data mining approach vs. data sharing approach

Trust is difficult to gain and easy to trash, my grandfather used to say. How difficult would it be switch this public perception? Actually, not as hard as you might think; at least if the care is taken to respond to the consumer’s legitimate expectations.

For instance, the report shows that 69% of Americans say a website showing how much different doctors charge would help them with their health care spending. This expectation hasn’t gone totally unnoticed and we started to see websites and pages trying to do just that. Most have tried doing this in a top down fashion by fusing databases and data mining approaches.

At CashDoctor we are taking the road less travelled: we believe in the immense power of a sharing community.

Rather than trying to piece together data from different databases, why not let consumers themselves have a say in this? We need YOU, the consumer, to take action today. Find your doctor or healthcare facility on our site. Share the prices you or your insurance company paid. Your neighbor could be struggling financially (with or without insurance) and your shared information can show them that a doctor’s visit in your neighborhood is affordable and is available.

You also will want to rate your doctors and facilities so others can support the providers that provide great patient service and avoid the providers that take advantage of consumers. Build a community by sharing. Once you have shared your prices and ratings, use our tools to connect with your friends online and in your local communities. Do not stop, via the internet and social media, we can bring about a revolution in healthcare.

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