3 ways for doctors to embrace price transparency

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More patients want to know prices up front for procedures that they pay for out-of-pocket.

Doctors can learn some lessons from plastic surgeons when it comes to attracting new patients who want to know prices up front for procedures that they pay for out of pocket because their insurance doesn’t cover them.

With more patients responsible for the cost of their care before their high deductible is met, many now ask their doctors about costs, writes Jonathan Kaplan, M.D., a plastic surgeon based in San Francisco and founder and CEO of BuildMyBod Health, an online marketplace for healthcare services, in Medical Economics.

“Focusing on customer growth and retention without the support of a built-in referral system from insurance networks and the like is the cosmetic plastic surgeon's forte,” says Kaplan. So here are some of the takeaways for doctors:

Create a fee schedule: Develop a list that accurately reflects the fee you will charge a patient who is not using insurance or before their deductible is met, so there are no surprise bills or hidden charges, he says. A recent study found that nearly all doctors bill patients far more than what the Medicare program pays.

But don’t give the information away for free. Kaplan doesn’t provide prices on his website until potential patients provide their contact information. That allows front office staff to follow up, and build and maintain new patient relationships.

Plan to remarket to these potential patients. For instance, create a monthly email newsletter that you send to them, building a database of potential self-pay patients, he says.

RELATED: New app promises price transparency, quick connection between patients, specialists

There are different approaches to providing transparency and many are taking advantage of new technology that allows consumers to determine the cost of an out-of-pocket procedures. An app called Urgent Medical Access, currently being launched in New York, allows patients to find certain specialists for an initial consultation by searching based on cost and other factors.