Transparency in cost and quality remains a long way away

Healthcare delivery is straining toward achieving transparency, but it has a long way to go, according to a recent report by the University of Utah publication, Algorithms for Innovation.

“It’s kind of shocking. We spend more time vetting a new car or TV than a doctor or hospital,” said Robert Pendelton, M.D., the University of Utah's chief medical quality officer. That's despite the fact that the rising tide of consumerism in healthcare is pushing more Americans for transparency on the cost and quality of the healthcare they receive.

But while Yelp and the investigative journalism organization ProPublica have been moving ahead with some quality ranking data, most providers have been reluctant to disseminate it themselves. The University of Utah system was among the first health systems to do so, starting in 2012. There have been few others.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has since joined the Utah system, with its publishing of overall quality rankings for hospitals beginning late last month. Most of the hospitals received middling ratings from CMS, drawing criticism from the healthcare sector as a result.

And when it comes to cost, opacity tends to carry the day. A recently released report from the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute and Catalyst for Payment Reform gave only seven states passing grades on price transparency for consumers. That's up from five states in the previous survey, but hardly swift progress. Most of those states that do have price transparency rely on the availability of all-claims payer databases, but a recent U.S. Supreme Court case has made it much easier for insurers to block their participation in such databases.

Those obstacles remain despite the fact that in recent years more consumers have said they are linking their experiences in price transparency to the overall quality of the care they have received.

– read the Alogrithms for Innovations article