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People are increasingly inclined to shop around online for healthcare prices

Compared to June 2017, when a study published by AJMC® pointed out that patients did not really shop around for healthcare prices because of certain barriers, now more and more consumers want to be able to compare healthcare prices

The internet and mobile apps are increasingly used, especially by millennials, to compare prices.

In the 2018 United Healthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey, 36% of the respondents said they have used the internet and mobile apps, over the last year, to compare quality and cost of health services.

Younger consumers are more likely to price shop than older generations, and they mostly do it via the internet and mobile apps, since they are already using such tools. As a result, shopping for healthcare prices continues to increase.

It is interesting to see that, even though the vast majority, 91% of consumers, want price transparency, not all providers insure its existence. A free-market system should ideally provide comparative information about healthcare services, products, and physicians. Such comparisons make online reputation management for doctors even more important, and also result in reduced prices and savings.

The healthcare system is, however, still resistant to change, and competition is not always encouraged or even possible, so being able to shop around for the best priced service or product is not an option for everybody.  Those in remote or medically under-covered areas can’t really choose a healthcare provider, and the generic drug manufacturers, for instance, are accused of fixing prices and dividing the market to cripple competition.

Even patients who have a choice don’t always change their original healthcare provider.   According to surveyed consumers, almost half (46%) claim they need the information for budget planning purposes, and only 11% use it to find better deals.

People won’t necessarily spend less or even use a transparency tool, simply because they have access to healthcare prices. California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) found this out when it offered a price transparency tool for medical services, such as lab tests, office visits and advanced imaging. Only 12% of the employees used the tool, and just a few individuals saved some money on imaging services.

What is ever more important for the patients is the possibility of choosing what works best for themselves, not only better prices, but also better care for the price they can afford to pay.  Employers, which basically shopped for their employees in the past, understood that offering their team the price transparency tool is a better approach and might even convince people to come work for them.

Ultimately, the healthcare business model is shifting from a fee-for-service model to one that’s value-based. In addition, patients are paying more out-of-pocket for care and are becoming more discerning than ever. Taken together, the digital transformation of healthcare is inevitable to accommodate this shift.  

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