We spend a lot of time talking about medical costs skyrocketing for patients. But, we often fail to recognize that costs are also extremely high for practices. Not only do providers need to invest in their equipment, professionals, and facilities — they also need to understand the costs of competitive services and access to care in the surrounding area.
Understanding the costs, as well as how transparent pricing can help increase patient satisfaction, is an essential part of expanding a practice. If the practice has a clear understanding of the associated pricing, it can help promote trust in their services and grow their patient base.
Dr. Bob Crittenden, the Executive in Residence at Cambia Grove, shared with us several key observations regarding how price transparency can affect patient decisions. As a physician with more than 28 years of experience helping patients in the central and southeast Seattle regions, Dr. Crittenden has dedicated his services to many under-insured clients and has an intimate understanding of how affordability affects a patient’s healthcare decisions and access to care.
Pricing Varies for Many Reasons
“Pricing varies dramatically depending on the institution that you go to,” reminds Dr. Crittenden. “So when I practiced at additional places, people got different sizes of bills for the same thing. But also, it depends on your insurance company, what kind of a contract they have and whether you see that or not.”
Plenty of facilities provide the same type of medical services. However, patients do not often recognize that one practice may charge much more for the same service provided by another. This becomes a problem for two main reasons: the majority of individuals blindly follow a trusted doctor’s recommendation and/or they rely on their insurance plan to fully cover the costs.
Blind Faith in the Doctor’s Recommendations
“The interesting thing though, is that most patients that I work with are really just looking for good advice. I think they’re lost in a wilderness of healthcare which is a pretty thick thicket,” stated Dr. Crittenden. “It’s a dense topic that people don’t feel extremely confident about, and if the physician, the one that they trust at least, recommends something it’s rare that they don’t do that.”
As a trusted medical expert, patients often do not question the recommendations of their physician. They expect prudent and truly necessary tests are being ordered or recommended. However, this is not always the case. Having transparent pricing can encourage well-placed trust in your practice.
Relying Entirely on Insurance
“The other thing is, rarely have I seen people who have insurance get very engaged in the cost of or the variability in the cost of, say, primary care,” says Dr. Crittenden. “I have seen, particularly if people have to spend out of pocket, people becoming really hesitant about just going for a particular test.”
Patients with insurance often believe that they will have little out-of-pocket expenses beyond the initial co-pay. This is not necessarily true as plenty of tests and medications go beyond the scope of many insurance plans. In fact, many only realize the true cost when the bill arrives. Having upfront, transparent pricing helps patients have better access to care, whether they have insurance or not.