Posting prices may help both surgeons and patients

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Publicly posting the price of tonsillectomies, uncomplicated births, and other common procedures can increase business, revenue, and patient satisfaction at outpatient surgery centers, according to a small study.

“There’s a growing movement in the United States for transparent and fixed pricing for predictable services…”

A report in the American Surgeon suggests that hospitals and other health care providers may want to increase price transparency to boost their bottom lines.

“There’s a growing movement in the United States for transparent and fixed pricing for predictable services, and this study suggests that the market rewards such practices,” says Martin Makary, professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study.

Makary and his team identified eight ambulatory surgical centers from a database held by the Free Market Medical Association, an association that lists 96 surgical centers, individual physicians, and medical groups that promote health care transparency. All eight listed prices for surgical services on their websites.

The researchers sent a data collection form to eight centers; six returned completed forms.

The forms asked for patient demographics, details on a center’s price transparency policy, and how patient volume, patient inquiries for services, patient satisfaction, and center revenue changed one year after prices became transparent.

Five of the six centers reported increases in patient volume and revenue after adopting price transparency. Specifically, they reported a midrange or median patient volume increase of 50 percent one year after implementing price transparency.

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Four centers reported a 30 percent midrange revenue increase, three reported a reduction in administrative burden, and five reported an increase in patient satisfaction and patient engagement.

The results do not categorically prove that the increased business outcomes and patient satisfaction are directly due in total or in part to price transparency, Makary says. The timing of the increases, however, suggests the impact is positive, he says. All six centers in the study said they would recommend price transparency as a marketing strategy.

Four said they believe that price transparency increased both their annual revenue and the demand for their services.

Additional coauthors of the study are from Johns Hopkins and from Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore.

Source: Johns Hopkins University