The tide may be turning slowly in that direction, as patients are starting to ask more frequently about the cost of treatment, said James Dregney, CFO at Lakewood Health System, an independent, integrated rural healthcare system in Staples, Minn., which operates a 25-bed critical access hospital and primary care clinics across the region.
Price transparency is driving the need for healthcare finance leaders to try to arrive at a "truer cost" than in the past, but as CFO Exchange attendees noted, the costing process is still inexact.
"My board would like to know how much a pen costs, but I can't tell them that exactly. I can only give them an average [price]," said Benjamin Carter, senior vice president and CFO at Novi, Mich.–based Trinity Health, the 10th-largest health system in the nation and the fourth-largest Catholic health care system. And these "average" prices are still higher than most consumers would like to pay.
Moreover, there's still a great deal of debate in healthcare over how much influence cost really has on a patient's actions. For instance, many commercial payer health plans offer a monetary incentive for members to join a gym. However, there's no requirement on how frequently the member must exercise in order to get that incentive payment.