Why Healthcare Cost and Quality Data Matters

In response to Dr. Rick Abramson’s comments published on April 25, 2017 ­– “In health care, price is not the only factor” – I agree that quality and cost information are both very important to consumers so that they can get the best care at an affordable price.

To underscore their importance, research has shown that hospital errors are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. and hospital bills are the top cause of bankruptcy.

Clearly consumers need more information to protect themselves. That is why Healthcare Bluebook includes both quality and cost information whenever they are available.

We know that most hospitals perform most services, but they are not equally good at everything.  Bluebook offers consumers information about quality of care that allows them to see hospital outcomes for the specific service they need.

We combine this healthcare quality information with cost information so that they can get the quality care they need at a price they can afford.

Dr. Abramson also reports that “comprehensive and standardized quality information for MRIs doesn’t really exist.” In fact, the healthcare industry has not done a good job of documenting and reporting on quality of care in the outpatient setting. That is why Bluebook has partnered with the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association and others to develop and promote outpatient quality scores.  We look forward to sharing these quality metrics as they become available and welcome the contributions that Dr. Abramson and medical centers like Vanderbilt can provide.

I would challenge the assertion that providing pricing information poses any risks to patients, or the healthcare system.  As most health-care experts understand, high-priced health care does not imply high-quality health care.

That is, unlike most goods and services, health-care services are different in that the price of the service doesn’t correlate with the quality. In fact, numerous studies have shown that lower cost care can often be of higher quality.

Medical complications can indicate poor quality and invariably increase the costs.  Doing it right the first time improves quality and lowers cost.

From a practical perspective, consumers can have an informed conversation with their doctor about treatment choices regarding both quality and cost.  For example, if your doctor is referring for a MRI you can use Bluebook to show you the price differences between different facilities.  Then ask your doctor if they regularly use and trust any of the lower cost facilities.

In our experience, most doctors have complete confidence in many MRI centers that have both high-quality and low-cost.  This can save the patient more than $2,000 for a MRI.

We understand that high-cost facilities have not had to compete on quality or price under the current insurance-financed system. We also know that transparency and consumerism are the best medicine to force the competition that will raise quality and lower costs.

Are you in charge of benefits and thinking about a transparency solution? Learn more about Bluebook and how we can help employers and employees. 

Originally appeared in The Tennessean May 16, 2017

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