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Why 3 surgery centers posted prices online + 5 strategies for success

Price transparency is the way of the future, and ASCs are strategically positioned to take advantage of it, according to several panelists who spoke at Becker's ASC 2​6​th Annual Meeting: The Business and Operations of ASCs on Oct. 25.

During a session called "Price Transparency in ASCs," moderated by Becker's Healthcare Managing Editor Mackenzie Bean, the following executives discussed their organizations' price transparency strategies and ways other organizations can create transparency around costs:

  • Colleen Ingraham, COO of Prairie Spine & Pain Institute in Peoria, Ill.
  • Jonathan Kaplan, MD, founder and CEO of BuildMyBod Health
  • Andy Poole, CEO of Monticello Community Surgery Center in Charlottesville, Va.

In June, President Donald Trump signed an executive order requiring hospitals and insurance companies to disclose negotiated rates for healthcare services and inform patients of their financial responsibility prior to their procedures. While the attempt at transparency is a good thing, according to Ms. Ingraham, the executive order isn't addressing the root of the problem.

"The challenge that we have is not in the posted price of the chargemaster," she said. "What we really need to have better transparency about is what the contracted rate is and how many people are participating in that middle space between the allowable and the chargemaster. That's where we're leaking our savings."

The panelists agreed that ASCs don't have to wait for legislation to get the ball rolling on price transparency. In fact, Monticello Community Surgery Center began publishing prices in 2014 after separating from its hospital partner two years before. The strategic move was intended to create a competitive advantage, according to Mr. Poole.

"We [considered the question of] how are we going to strive, grow and be where we need to be while we know we're going to lose a lot of the primary care referrals that we've been receiving from the employed physicians," he said. "So, for us, it was a way to [achieve that]. And also — even better — to support the community mission."

Dr. Kaplan, whose online platform BuildMyBod provides pricing information for consumers, said price transparency helped his plastic surgery practice avoid wasting time — for both the clinical staff and patients.

"I just got tired of patients coming in for cosmetic consult and having no idea how much it cost, only to divulge their deepest insecurities about their body only to find out that they can't afford it at the end," he said. "I figured there had to be a better way to handle this. So, that's when we started posting pricing on our website. You can see how patients can go and check pricing, but only after they put in their contact information [which generates lead for the practice]."

No matter what an organization's reason is for pursuing it, price transparency requires a significant amount of work, the panelists agreed. And in today's "Amazon world," as Dr. Kaplan put it, the informed consumer reigns supreme. With that in mind, here are five strategies for price transparency success that were shared during the panel discussion:

1. Educate front offices to better understand the patients' financial responsibility.

2. Be prepared to commit in the face of pushback from different stakeholders.

3. Make sure you have good cost data that is accurate and updated.

4. Don't compete on price; compete on quality.

5. Do all the legwork and price disclosures before patients come in, to avoid wasting time.

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