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Does Price Transparency Pay Off?

Utah ASC makes shopping for surgery easy.

Published: January 15, 2015

Outpatient Surgery MagazineWould posting the price of surgery online bring more patients to your ORs and lower the cost of health care? A Utah ASC is wagering that it will, as it joins the trend toward transparency.

The front page of St. George Surgical Center's website offers free, instantly available price quotes for more than 70 multi-specialty procedures at the click of a drop-down menu, with more on the way in the coming months.

Besides the rise of the patient as educated consumer and the decline in insurers' reimbursements, the center was motivated by the groundbreaking efforts of Keith Smith's Surgery Center of Oklahoma, says Jerry Hadlock, CRNA, St. George's director of anesthesia and one of the driving forces behind its price transparency program.

"We saw the value in people being able to shop online for their surgeries. We have the ability to accommodate the extra case volume this could bring. And we felt that if we didn't do it, we'd be left behind," says Mr. Hadlock.

The quoted prices, which apply to self-paying patients who remit or arrange for the financing of the full amount by the day of surgery, include physician, anesthesia and facility fees as well as 1 pre-op and 1 post-op visit. They don't, however, include the cost of pre-surgical diagnostic testing or imaging; implants or hardware (which are supplied at a pre-disclosed invoice price); treatment for post-op complications; or physical therapy and rehabilitation consultation.

"Being a physician-owned ASC makes it easier to get this done," says Mr. Hadlock, not to mention easier to offer competitive pricing, but he notes that there's no reason why hospitals couldn't deliver such transparency.

While only 10% of the 2,500 cases St. George's does each year have been self-pay, "the response has been phenomenal," says Mr. Hadlock, despite the challenges of marketing the public prices. "When people first hear about it, it seems foreign to them. But we've had people calling from Canada, and making a 14-hour drive from Northern California."

David Bernard

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