"The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through." -- Sydney J. Harris

Price Transparency: It’s Time Has Come

By Lola Butcher
Hospitals and Health Networks

Purchaser and Provider Collaboratives Bring Increased Transparency

MN (Minnesota) Community Measurement is the oldest and most influential of several regional collaboratives that bring a wide range of stakeholders together to increase transparency into health care quality, patient experience and financial information.

The nonprofit organization, currently chaired by Penny Wheeler, M.D., chief clinical officer of Allina Hospitals & Clinics, introduced in 2009 to allow patients to check out the quality of care delivered at clinics or by medical groups. After the Minnesota Hospital Association joined as a sponsor organization, the website grew to include comparative data on hospital quality, including both process and outcome measures, and patient experience.

“We know that consumers are looking at the information, and we also know that providers are looking at the information and using it to improve the quality of care within their own organizations,” says Tina Frontera, chief operating officer of MN Community Measurement. “One advantage of transparency is that it does help spur improvement efforts.” collects payments from the state’s insurers and publishes a blended average payment rate for basic services — office visits, imaging services and a few procedures — for each clinic system.

Because it is a blended average, that information is not particularly useful to patients, but it allows payers and purchasers to compare their options — and McCoy, the Fairview Health Services executive, finds it very helpful.

“Our preference is to be at market or below market in our pricing, so that is certainly something that we look at,” he says. “And if there’s an issue with a price being out of line, we want to make sure we address that with the payers.”

Next up: later this year will debut a total cost of care measure — the average total, including hospital, physician, pharmacy and all ancillary providers, for an individual for a year. This will allow a comparison of the total cost of care among provider systems throughout the state — information that purchasers and payers will love to have.

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