5 tips for hospitals in a consumer-driven market

American consumers are increasingly taking more responsibility for healthcare costs, with the Affordable Care Act helping them take a more active role in shopping for their own coverage. To succeed in this patient-centered marketplace, they should adopt five strategies, according to a new report from the American Hospital Association (AHA):

  1. Disclose price and quality information to consumers: Only 25 percent of healthcare consumers obtain cost estimates from their providers, and two-thirds say they are consistently surprised by medical costs. Hospitals should ask themselves if they are "prepared to provide meaningful pricing information to consumers" and how their costs are characterized by health plans, independent websites, news outlets and consumer organizations, according to the AHA report.

  2. Participate in health plan selection: Hospitals should examine whether or not they are actively communicating with consumers regarding the plans the hospital participates in, and weigh the benefits of affiliating with or employing certified application counselors. Growing consumer demand for health plan guidance has led to non-healthcare sources, such as local librarians.

  3. Work with local policies and regulations:  Hospitals should assess how well laws and regulations, at the state and local level, align with their strategies as an organization, the report recommends.

  4. Assess value and branding: Hospitals must remember the importance of being a trusted community institution, the report states, as well as how they are portrayed by local health plans and whether or not patients will insist that their hospital be included in their network. Many providers are already conscious of the value of community relations, leading to the rise of positions such as the chief population health officer within the healthcare industry.

  5. Look at network contracting: Hospitals that aren't already preferred providers within health plan networks should determine what they must do to be included, or whether it's easier to launch their own narrow network plans.

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)