Transparency goes mainstream

While consumers have complained about healthcare pricing for years--and payers have struggled to come up with quality measures they could live with--transparency advocates blew the doors down this year.  Hundreds of hospitals decided to share pricing information, often driven by hospital trade associations but sometimes by state legislation. Quality data is being disseminated broadly as well, often by state and federal officials, who seem to think that they can embarrass hospitals into lowering rates of infections and never-event errors by publicizing such data. (Who knows, they may be right in some cases.) 

To date, I've seen little evidence that consumers are making actually making use of this information. And my guess is that hospitals and other providers will need to train consumers in the use of healthcare purchasing data if they want to get potential patients interested. Still, if more-sophisticated consumers felt up to doing healthcare comparison shopping, they had a lot more to go on in 2007 than they have in years past.