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Hospital Pricing Transparency a Marketing Game Changer

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, May 22, 2013

And though hospitals have long been required to share this data with CMS, hospital leaders, as Forbes so aptly puts it, "have traditionally guarded this information from the public as carefully as the launch codes required to start a nuclear holocaust."

Now that the sticker prices are freely available, it's clear why hospitals wanted to lock up the information and throw away the key. Nobody wanted the distinction of having the highest billing rates in the nation. Sorry, Bayonne Medical Center. You're it.

There are vast price variations within states, counties, and even cities. This realization has caused an outcry among the public and media, prompting The Huffington Post website to create a comparative graphic and The Washington Post to build a helpful comparative tool that allows you to contrast hospitals by state.

The release of the data creates a unique problem for marketers as any promotions or even public acknowledgement of pricing is uncharted territory. While marketers have traditionally been charged chiefly with touting the qualities of their services, the exposure of pricing data adds a whole new dimension to the mix.

Miami market case study
Already, the Miami, FL healthcare market is creating keen interest in how hospitals are reacting to the release of prices.

The CEO of Miami Beach's Mount Sinai Medical Center, Steve Sonenreich, is upping the ante. He made a public pledge on a local radio show to divulge the contractual rates the hospital pays private insurers for diagnoses and treatments, according to the Miami Herald.

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2 comments on "Hospital Pricing Transparency a Marketing Game Changer"


Donald Stumpp (5/23/2013 at 9:57 AM)
We all know there are $200 night hotel rooms and ones you can get for $50. The cost of essentially the same food varies between restaurants as consumers pay for a quality dining experience - with their own definition of what that is. ...... The healthcare consumer has been oblivious to costs and it will take some time to learn, because fortunately, we do not use the services often..... But eventually we will learn. I might pay more for my Dr visit because they are happy to see me, are on time and really help me (think Starbucks coffee), but I might not want to pay $60 for a lab test I can get for $10 elsewhere....... It may not be the patient always asking though. The employer who is essentially funding it all may be the wild card to push this over the edge.

Daniel Fell (5/22/2013 at 1:06 PM)
Good article and nice to see the coverage of healthcare pricing in general as it is once of the most frustrating and puzzling aspects of our industry. However, I believe the Holy Grail is not quality or price but rather value. Hospitals that successfully marry the two into compelling messages to health plans, physicians and patients will ultimately succeed. And many will be able to charge higher prices that they'll be able to justify. And those will low quality and high prices will cease to exist.