Patients look to docs' offices for cost info

Although some reports suggest that online tools to help consumers compare health prices may not be quite ready for prime time, patients' go-to source for information about the cost of their care is none other than their physician's office.

According to the most recent Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll on price transparency, 16 percent of respondents who'd received healthcare in the past year said they'd sought price information beforehand, up from 10 percent in 2010. Among those who looked for cost data, 50 percent said they inquired about it at the doctor's office, followed by 49 percent from insurance companies. And while 53 percent of comparison shoppers asked for the information in person, consumers' use of email and the Internet to obtain price information more than doubled since 2010, from 22 percent to 45 percent, according to the poll of more than 3,000 Americans.

Most telling about the results, according to Ray Fabius, chief medical officer for Thomson Reuters' health unit, is that about two-thirds of the people who sought cost information said it influenced their choice of a health provider. However, the percent of respondents who reported getting accurate pricing information dipped to 86 percent in April 2012 versus 98 percent in September 2010, NPR reported.

While comparison shopping for healthcare may be an inexact science, it's one that more patients may strive to master as enrollment in health savings accounts with high-deductible health plans continues to increase.

To learn more:
- read the post from NPR
- see the summary (.pdf) of the Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll