December 2006

Price Transparency Work Group to Launch Pilot Project

With the rise of “consumer-driven” health care, patients are taking greater interest in all aspects of their care, including the cost, and a growing number of states require hospital charges or payment rates to be publicly available. Catholic Health Initiatives is taking a proactive approach to making meaningful information about the price of hospital care available to consumers. Catholic Health Initiatives’ definition of price transparency has three parts:
  1. Patient Communications — what financial assistance programs should be communicated to patients, and how they should be communicated.
  2. Price Transparency — use of Data from Source and other resources to provide average charge data specific to each market-based organization for the most-used inpatient and outpatient services.
  3. Point-of-Service (POS) Estimation — estimates of patients’ “out-of-pocket” expenses, based on the price of the service, patients’ insurance coverage and applicable financial assistance.
Catholic Health Initiatives’ Price Transparency Work Group, led by Pete Savini, vice president of revenue cycle management, is developing communications in patient-friendly language to inform patients of financial assistance available to them. The group includes patient financial services directors from several market-based organizations, as well as representatives from advocacy, communications, information technology, patient satisfaction and reimbursement. The group is developing materials that include scripts for financial counselors, bilingual materials, patient brochures and signage. These communications will be tested with focus groups for clarity and effectiveness. A POS tool will be available to financial counselors to help them assist patients who want price quote estimates prior to or at the time of service. The counselors will be able to print estimates of average charges for specific procedures and estimated amounts for which the patients will be responsible. Four market-based organizations have begun a three-month pilot of this initiative: Mercy Medical Center, Nampa, Idaho; Saint Joseph HealthCare, Lexington, Ky.; St. Joseph Hospital, Dickinson, N.D.; and St. Vincent Health System, Little Rock, Ark.