Consumers price shop for diagnostic, outpatient services

Money

A report issued by a New Jersey company that helps payers engage members around price transparency, concluded that consumers will not only actively shop around for diagnostic care, but also compare prices on elective surgeries.

The report, issued by Vitals, analyzed data from 1 million enrollees in its SmartShopper program from January to July of this year. More than two-thirds of the shoppers analyzed are over the age of 46--a group that needs healthcare more often than younger cohorts.

The top 10 procedures patients will shop for are mostly diagnostic or outpatient services.  Laboratory testing is the top item, followed by mammograms, MRIs, colonoscopies and CT scans. The average savings overall per procedure was $600.

“People don’t have an emotional attachment to the radiologist tech who performs their imaging scan or the phlebotomist who draws their blood.”

“People are willing to shop for these types of routine procedures because it doesn’t disrupt the traditional doctor-patient relationship,” said Mitch Rothschild, Vital’s chairman, in a statement. “People don’t have an emotional attachment to the radiologist tech who performs their imaging scan or the phlebotomist who draws their blood.”

Related: Price transparency cuts healthcare costs--even when consumers don't benefit

The data comes as American consumers show a mounting frustration with a lack of price transparency in the U.S. healthcare system. Only a handful of states receive passing grades on price transparency in a study issued earlier this year. An online petition started by a former hospital CEO earlier this year calling for greater price transparency drew more than 100,000 signatures.

The study also showed that patients were willing to shop around for more complicated surgical procedures, including knee surgery, gallbladder surgery and shoulder surgery.

Average savings were much higher for surgical procedures than those that were diagnostic in nature. Patients saved more than $10,000 by shopping around for bariatric surgery, more than $6,400 for knee surgery and more than $6,000 for shoulder surgery.