On its website, MEDARVA Stony Point Surgery Center in Richmond, Va., recently posted the out-of-pocket costs for the 25 to 30 of its most common surgical procedures across several specialties.
Price transparency has been on everyone's lips in healthcare, but few have taken the leap. Here, CEO of MEDARVA Healthcare Bruce P. Kupper, MHA, FACHE, describes the process of shedding light on healthcare prices and what this could mean for the ASC industry.
Question: Why was the decision made to post prices on the surgery center's website?
Bruce Kupper: There were several factors that motivated us. First of all: transparency. We want to let people see what things really cost. Recently, there have been several articles in the local newspaper examining healthcare costs and comparing prices at nearby hospitals. We felt this was an opportunity for us to educate the community on ASCs, a low-cost, high-quality alternative to the traditional acute care hospital.
We need to change the discussion from cost and charges to a discussion of value. What is the value of the care patients are getting? Quality of care and service, outcomes and competitive pricing equals good value. As employers shift employees to high deductible plans, patients become shocked by the cost of healthcare. We want them to become better educated and informed.
Q: What needed to be done after the decision was made to post the prices?
BK: I would say after the decision was made, we had the prices posted within six weeks. We identified our most common procedures and the accompanying cash prices. We already had a cash-pay program in place and this seemed like a logical step.
Everyone on the board was supportive as we discussed the idea. The most difficult part was writing the information on our website in a way that was understandable for patients.
As we did our research before posting the prices, we looked at the Anthem Blue Cross website, which offers costs of a number of procedures based on what it pays. That gave us a measure of guidance. Though our website shows cash pay prices, we encourage patients to visit payer websites and seek out pricing for comparative shopping.
Q: What impact do you think this will have on Stony Point Surgery Center's business?
BK: Our main goal is to raise patient, family and physician awareness of what different facilities charge. We wanted a more educated population. I expect we will get phone calls and even a few more patients.
Q: How do you think your competitors will react?
BK: According to 2012 data, Stony Point Surgery Center is the largest surgery center in the state. There are a few other surgery centers in the area, but our main competitors are hospitals. From the hospitals, I wouldn't be surprised if there was silence
As far as the other ASCs in the Richmond area, I hope they will respond by publishing their own rates. This will help to continue community education. We do not see the other ASCs in the area as competitors. In the effort to better educate the consumer on the value that ASCs provide, we hope the other Richmond ASCs will become our partners.
Q: Why do you think price transparency is important for the ASC industry?
BK: I think there remains a vital niche in the healthcare industry for the independent ASC. We at Stony Point Surgery Center do everything we can to stay independent and price transparency is one way to do this. We are bucking the trend of consolidation.
Across the board, awareness of ASCs has been lacking. Demonstrating our value to the community has been a missed opportunity. I hope the ASC community will take price transparency and discussing the value that ASC’s bring to health care and run with it.
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