Radiology practices can stand out from the competition by offering transparent pricing, and there are a few best practices to guide this transformation, experts wrote recently.
In January, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services started requiring hospitals to post negotiated prices for imaging and other services online to help consumers make choices. Most nonhospital-based radiology practices fall outside of this new rule. But there’s still an opportunity to adopt this mindset and attract new customers, two radiologists argued in an American Journal of Roentgenology opinion piece.
“Price transparency may proactively avoid a negative online review following an unpleasant billing experience, or support future CMS mandate expansions,” Gelareh Sadigh, MD, and Ruth Carlos, MD, with the departments of radiology at Emory University and Michigan Medicine, respectively, wrote May 18. “As commercial insurers shift service delivery from hospital- to outpatient clinic-based practices, uniform price transparency delivery across radiology practice settings will mitigate potential information disparities.”
The writers offered four pieces of advice to help practices in this process:
1. Cost estimate accuracy: Out-of-pocket estimates may be off if more than one insurer or provider is involved with the exam. Future efforts should address this issue, including informing patients that their estimate and final bill may differ, and updating previously provided price quotes on the day of service.
2. Quality in the mix: Patients can more accurately identify high-value healthcare if practices provide quality data alongside pricing. Common internal metrics, such the use of structured reporting, however, may not mean anything to the average Joe. Providers should focus on measurements that resonate with consumers, such as missed imaging findings.
3. Optimizing timing: The ideal format for discussing costs—whether over the phone, face to face, or in the patient portal—is unclear, as is the proper time to disclose pricing. Sadigh and Carlos suggested accounting for each patient’s health literacy and other factors when determining how and when to share the final price tag.
4. Social and behavioral influences: Radiology practices must also account for other outside factors that may impact communication around out-of-pocket costs. Sharing prices without accompanying options for financial assistance can potentially cause patient anxiety and deferral of necessary care, the authors noted. Other experts have argued that failing to provide any pricing can also foster angst among patients, the authors noted.
Read more of their advice in AJR here.