Catching The Transparency Wave: Four Steps To Improve Healthcare Price Transparency

The wave of interest at the state and federal levels to increase healthcare price transparency is growing more powerful. Consumers become more responsible for their healthcare costs with high deductible health plans. Government actors are pushing for hospital price transparency. Now is the time to develop and improve your abilities and capabilities to provide consumers with accurate price estimates.

The Wave

Identify high-volume services

A first step in catching the transparency wave is identifying the lower-price, higher-demand services. Patients are more likely to seek price information on these services since they are commonly delivered. State and federal governments also are targeting theses services as part of their price transparency plans. It’s also important to link cost data with other important information sources, such as relevant and publicly-reported quality and patient safety scores. This helps patients identify high-value services instead of just lower cost healthcare.

Med Money

Posting pricing information online

How healthcare systems publicize information will depend on state and federal regulations. California, Florida, Maryland and some others operate websites with hospital charge master and pricing information. The federal government is pursuing similar, but different rules on publicly posting prices for healthcare systems and drug companies.

Posting pricing information online may help you get ahead of the healthcare price transparency wave. Allowing access to hospital prices online also may be more convenient option for patients. As smartphone adoption rises and technology advances, patients are seeking cost information in the palm of their hands.

Med Bill

Bundled Pricing Strategy

Another way to catch the price transparency wave likely could include bundled pricing. When patients undergo a procedure at a hospital, they typically receive a series of services included in an episode of care. A total joint replacement, for example, can include pre-admission planning, surgery, post-acute care and complication management.

Care episodes can complicate prices estimates. Patients may seek pricing information for the surgery, but really want to know the total cost of care for the procedure. Hospitals and health systems that offer bundled pricing may be in a better position to service their patients and offer more accurate price estimates. All-inclusive bundled service offering is one way to build volume because it’s more like the traditional retail experience. A successful bundling strategy also may lead to better brand recognition.

Money Chart

Educate Staff on Patient Financial Responsibility

As consumers gain greater access to hospital prices, one of the more likely sources they’ll turn to for advice are healthcare providers and their staff. How prepared are you clinicians and staff to answer pricing questions from patients? Only 23 percent of providers in a recent survey said they always discuss patient financial responsibility with their patients prior to care delivery, while 36 percent admitted to never having the talk with their patients.

Provider inexperience with patient financial responsibility talks can wipe out many of your efforts to improve price transparency. Effective communications will be key to ensuring your patients understand pricing and their financial responsibility, especially since insurance coverage often affects how much a patient actually pays.


To accurately communicate pricing information, the American Hospital Association advises providers and staff to:

  • Emphasize that prices are estimates
  • Notify patients of cost changes that may occur based on a patient’s health or complications
  • Explain what is and is not included in the estimate (physician fees, lab costs, etc.)
  • Tell patients what other medical bills they may receive for the service


Use and Offer Price Transparency Tools

Technology and software can support with price transparency. Some healthcare systems have developed more of a retail approach with tools that gather pricing information on outpatient services and links the data to information on financial planners for consumers to use before, during and after the services. These transparency tools also can help to decrease costs. Putting transparent, accurate pricing information into the hands of patients and providers can help health systems direct patients to lower-cost clinicians and alternatives within the health system’s network. Accurate pricing estimates also can increase point-of-service patient collections.

You Are Not Alone

Perhaps the good news is you are not the only one struggling to develop meaningful ways to inform consumers of their financial responsibility. A group of researchers recently found that only 21 percent of hospitals had the ability to provide a complete hospital price estimate for a primary hip replacement. That could be seen as an opportunity to differentiate your hospital or health system in the marketplace.


The healthcare price transparency waves will continue to hit the healthcare beaches for years to come. Healthcare consumers are increasingly becoming more responsible for their healthcare costs with the continued growth of high deductible health plans. State and federal governments are starting to demand it. The industry leaders will take advantage of this opportunity and realign their healthcare systems with this new reality. Give us a call today to learn how we can help your organization manage and optimize price transparency.


Public decision-making is typically the domain of interest groups or highly specialized experts. Generally, it’s the most influential or well-organized group concerned with an issue that is best positioned to steer public decisions to its advantage.

The Role of Experts Versus the Most Organized

When it comes to the role of experts, public leaders often view highly trained experts as the only reliable source for the development of sound policy decisions. The logic of this approach to decision-making is clear and familiar: trained and specialized minds are the best suited to crafting public decisions, while the most organized and influential groups are those with the best shot at translating proposals into public policy. 

To the extent that citizens are considered, it is usually as consumers or clients of government. As a whole, the public is most often viewed as an audience to educate or problem to manage. In this framework, citizens are rarely viewed as vital resources or potentially powerful partners.

To be sure, there is sometimes a nod toward gaining a degree of “input” from “customers” or “end users.” In these cases, an advisory committee, a public opinion survey or some form of public hearing might be put into play. In the best case, these measures add a degree of input and legitimacy to a planning process. At worst, empty gestures prevail, as in the rigged “town meetings” with participants screened and questions carefully controlled. 


Momentum for Change

Authentic public engagement taps into the powerful resources inherent in any community: citizens. Rather than relegating people to the sidelines, it invites them to join the public dialogue and provides the tools to do so effectively. As a result, leaders know where the public stands as problem solving progresses, while citizens contribute to solutions through their input, ideas and actions.

Authentic and skillful engagement with strategic stakeholders improves results by:

  • Bringing together multiple points of view in order to inform decisions
  • Creating legitimacy and a sense of shared responsibility by involving stakeholders and the broader public in the decision-making process
  • Fostering new allies and collaborations
  • Stimulating broader awareness and momentum for change and decisions

People Map

Engagement Principles

While broad-based public engagement is not possible or appropriate for every decision, variations of the theme can be the right move for addressing many kinds of public decisions and initiatives – particularly those whose success and sustainability will depend upon the support and concerted actions of many varied stakeholders. 

Based on our experience, the following principles are key to designing effective public engagement:

  • Begin by listening.
  • Attend to people’s leading concerns.
  • Reach beyond the “usual suspects”
  • Frame issues for deliberation.
  • Provide the right type and amount of information at the right time.
  • Help people move beyond wishful thinking.
  • Expect obstacles and resistance.
  • Create multiple, varied opportunities for deliberation, dialogue and feedback.
  • Respect and respond thoughtfully to the public’s engagement.
  • Build long-term capacity as you go. 

Engagement Word Cloud

Bottom Line provides services in partnership with organizations. When an organization or community engages us to help them with an initiative, we are deliberate about establishing a collaborative working relationship, in which we respond to the needs of the organization, and learn with the people involved, rather than imposing our methods on them. Our approach is constantly adapted in response to the individuals involved, so that the users drive their own agenda and the process is truly customized to your needs.

Community Engagement

The best practice model we deploy defines the different types of engagement (see model below). Each type (Inform, Consult, etc.), has an associated goal and promise. We use this model to help us define together which type of engagement is appropriate for this project or for particular stakeholders or segments of the community affected by the project. Once we have jointly defined the engagement purposes, we can decide which tools and tactics will best meet your goals. Give us a call or send us an e-mail. We’d love to learn about your challenge and what you see as opportunities for true engagement. 

Community Engagement Best Practices