Online healthcare price transparency tools trend upward

As healthcare costs continue to rise and fluctuate based on hospitals' location, price transparency efforts will continue to be important. That's what makes San Francisco-based health IT start-up Castlight Health's Tuesday announcement that it was able to raise $100 million in Series D funding so important, according to an article published in Forbes. Castlight offers online healthcare price-comparison tools to employees of self-insured companies.

The company certainly isn't the only online comparison tool available to consumers. Insurance company Cigna unveiled a similar tool for its customers in February that allows patients to search costs for 200 common medical procedures and estimate prices for specialists, doctors and hospitals based on their coverage, and WellPoint has offered similar resources to some of its customers since 2009.

Barriers to transparency has been challenging for the healthcare industry. For example, despite a 2006 law in California requiring hospitals to post their average charges for common procedures on a state-run website, very few hospitals actually post such prices on their own websites.

Castlight's total funding now stands at $181 million. The fact that Castlight was able to more than double its prior funding, on top of the fact that one of its financial backers is a provider (the Cleveland Clinic), speaks volumes about the direction the industry is going in achieving true price transparency.

"This is a vehicle to something bigger," Castlight CEO Giovanni Colella told Forbes. "The reality is, when you put people on a high-deductible plan, they're going to think twice before going to the doctor. Tools like ours will be needed more and more."

To learn more:
- read the Forbes article
- here's the Castlight announcement

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