Price transparency in healthcare: Why knowing the price can help us make a better decision
When making a decision to purchase a product or a service, consumers usually take a look at the price, especially if they are considering a budget. And even if they do not, they need to know how much something is going to cost them. It becomes extremely frustrating if as a consumer, you cannot get a quote from the service provider. It can be that they do not want to reveal the true item price for revenue reasons or they do not have ample information. As consumers of any product or service, we seek to know every itemized expense because information is power, and that power helps us make better purchasing decisions especially when it comes to healthcare.
That’s the point with price transparency - getting pricing upfront and understanding what we are paying for. As you can imagine, this is also vital when availing services such as medical care abroad. When patients looking for medical care are informed, they are capable of making better decisions - choices they have the right to do specially if it pertains to their health care needs and their family’s.
What's the connection between price transparency and medical tourism?
In a growing industry like Medical Tourism, there are times when service providers do not have all the information to inquisitive patients - which creates a delay in decision making and in forming trust which is vital with any business establishment. If prices are not advertised as they are in other industries such as travel and tourism, hotels or manufacturing, the result is that patients and their families have fear in choosing a provider because they are fearful of hidden costs. It can also mean that the treatment or surgery will be something they cannot afford.
It is also important to understand that as a consumer knows this power more and more, he will make a decision based not only on his family or friends’ reference as it used to be in the past but he as a consumer, will also base it on the price, quality, and even peer & industry reviews of procedures, doctors, and hospitals. Having price transparency will give a competitive edge to a healthcare organization that decide to do so, as they can choose to leapfrog forward from the competition or stay behind. In this sense, Medical Tourism is changing as the globalization of healthcare increases and people are capable of choosing on a global rather than local level.
On the other hand, with everything changing, people have gone from using insurance companies to negotiate health care pricing on behalf of them to have to pay for medical care themselves, since more and more people each day work as contractors. Same as with the case of uninsured consumers who are paying directly for services since long ago. However, if they do not have access to pricing information, price-based competition may be reduced.
Furthermore, Medical Tourism has shifted dramatically as an option not only for people traveling to the US looking for treatments, procedures or medical equipment that were not available in their home countries. Now, many medical tourists travel from developed countries looking for lower priced procedures, but at the same quality as in their home countries (if not better).
How can patients compare prices?
People are looking to take advantage of medical tourism, because they have finally understood that the higher priced healthcare facilities do not necessarily offer higher quality care and the lower cost facilities do not necessarily offer lower quality care. Therefore, more and more individuals are choosing to travel abroad for major elective surgical procedures (e.g. facelift, breast implant surgery). Patients now can either look on the Internet or contact the medical facilities themselves until they find the best option for them, or they ask the help of medical tourism service providers such as PlacidWay.
For example, if Patient X is looking for a cosmetic procedure such as breast implants, she can easily enter www.placidway.com and choose between a clear list of all-inclusive packages where prices and inclusions are clearly stated. This way Patient X can see the hospital, doctor and anesthetist fees, accommodation, pre and post-surgery tests, medication, meals, transportation, translator and many other services that are included and how much she (patient X) is going to need to go abroad and undergo this specific procedure. From there, she can compare, compute and analyze according to her own budget and preferences on different medical centers around the world. On www.placidway.com, the list for a breast implant surgery would go from:
• $1,750 in India
• $2,500 in Mexico
• $2,563 in Thailand
• $3,214 in Turkey
• $3,000 in Colombia
• to $3,400 in South Korea
Also if a computer is not available, she can easily use PlacidMobile, a free app which allows users to search for medical options in over 40 countries using their mobile phones and gadgets (such as the iPad or Tab). Patient X can also access over 1000 medical centers and compare thousands of packages as well as pricing options for different procedures from medical centers all over the globe.
Of course, with these comparisons, international patients would understand that with the lower labor costs and fewer third-party payments, the outcome would be a lower the final package price offered. This Medical Tourism strategy can help patients save up to 70% of the price they would pay back home for medical care depending on the place they choose to go. That distinction is beyond compare among other industries where patients can choose only from local doctors, which fees can be almost the same leading to frustration since there is not really something to choose from.
What changes will price transparency and medical tourism bring?
Having access to treatment prices has empowered the patient, who is now able to look beyond state or national boundaries to destinations that offer health services that are both readily accessible and economically feasible. Knowing how much you will pay for the medical procedure you need and indeed knowing that healthcare is more affordable abroad than at home in many cases, is a privilege and a right each one of us should have access to.
Consumer demand for meaningful and transparent price information will only continue to grow. To meet this demand, hospitals and health systems must take a critical look at where they currently fall on the price transparency spectrum and take steps to improve how they communicate pricing information with patients and their community. Medical Tourism is becoming a driving force towards this as globalization of healthcare increases and is helping not only patients to make informed and better choices, but medical centers worldwide to expand their services around the world and becoming recognized worldwide.
PlacidWay is a worldwide leader in medical tourism facilitation and services. More than providing informational resources needed for medical travel, it aims to assist patients from all walks of life to evaluate their global options for medical care that is available and affordable.