Almost a year into rules requiring hospitals to post prices online, how are they doing?

Some major health systems are doing far better than others at following transparency laws almost a year after federal rules requiring hospitals to post their list prices online were issued, according to a new report from healthcare business development group ADVI. 

In a review of the 25 largest health systems in the U.S. by revenue, ADVI found some health systems going beyond the letter of the law in attempts to make the chargemaster readable for consumers.

But in other cases, the information posted was far harder for consumers to make use of, Becca Davison, an ADVI director, told FierceHealthcare. 

"That's obviously a problem, because the whole goal of this provision and all the activity around the administration's work on transparency is to improve consumers ability to evaluate these services and costs," Davison said. 

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  • Frequency of updating: Some health systems made it clear when the data were being updated, which is important for researchers, but that information could be hard to find in some cases. "It seems hospitals could be updating this information as often as quarterly but the administration only requires it to be updated once a year. So it's helpful to make it clear to patients or third-party groups that are using this information."

The report also points out a few problematic trends at some of the health systems.

In some cases, hospitals made no or little attempt to translate medical jargon that describes what a procedure is into a format that patients could understand. 

And in a few examples, health systems required anyone seeking the price information to submit their name and email address to get access to the document. "It doesn't make sense to me why an individual should have to submit that information when it's being required by (the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) and something the hospitals already have."

Davison said the goal of the report was to help health systems get a look at how other organizations are complying with the regulation.

The report was based on a group of 25 hospitals, and it was not difficult to find best practices, she said. "There are definitely issues in these documents but there are things hospitals are already doing. For a hospital to say 'This is way too onerous,' well, clearly some hospitals are already doing this. It is possible."