In theory, pricing transparency is meant to empower consumers. In practice, it is often confusing. After all, pricing transparency in healthcare includes so many factors—the cost of services, the cost of procedures, the cost of prescriptions, the quality of services, how each varies by doctor and location, plus, the variation in health plans. The list goes on.

We’re big on transparency at MyHealthMath. Again and again, we’ve said that cost transparency will empower consumers to choose their optimal health plan, save money, and lead healthier lives. Transparency is MyHealthMath’s principal core value.

But giving consumers a collection of data won’t empower them to make cost-effective decisions, it will only leave them overwhelmed. For transparency to be valuable, it needs to be user-friendly.

That’s why we’ve refined our definition of transparency to focus on the user, and we’ve established a checklist for making sure our transparency efforts really are user-friendly.

How we define transparency

To us, transparency means that consumers know how to find simple-to-understand information about healthcare cost and quality. Then, they can put that information to work, facilitating their personal concrete healthcare decisions.

In the interest of clarity, let’s break that definition down a little.

  • Ensuring that consumers “know how to find” information means prioritizing consumer education about existing resources, creating new resources, and making it easy for consumers to access those resources.
  • Making information “simple-to-understand” means making sure it is shared in a consumable format (e.g. weeding out irrelevant information and avoiding jargon)
  • Sharing information on “cost and quality” requires giving information on how much a service costs and what that service entails.
  • To “put that information to work for them,” consumers must be able to find the data that applies to their decision without being bombarded by the rest. That’s why it’s vital that transparency efforts focus on personalization—making it easy for people to see the data that specifically applies to their healthcare decisions.

Pricing transparency checklist

Keeping our definition in mind, we’ve developed the following checklist for promoting user-friendly transparency.

  1. Accessibility: Is the information easy to find and presented in a way that people can understand? Consider the reading level, language options, formatting, searchability, and whether there’s support available for interpreting the information.
  2. Timeliness: Is the information delivered at the right time? Consider giving people a designated time to digest the information as well as making it easy for them to access the information at a time that works best for them.
  3. Specificity: Is the information specific to the individual and their needs? And then, does that data pass the “Accessibility” check?
  4. Authenticity: Are the limits of the information clear? Always clearly define what questions the data can and cannot answer, so people aren’t surprised or confused.
  5. Personalization: Is the information displayed in a way that reflects the user’s goals and preferences? For example, can they easily see information that helps them manage risk?
  6. Tools: Is the information accompanied by sophisticated, user-friendly tools? Intuitive software that helps people interpret the available information can be a great way to make sure your organization achieves the five transparency benchmarks above.

Promoting transparency can have a big impact on the healthcare system

The most obvious benefit of transparency is that it helps consumers get more for their dollar. When consumers know how much services will cost, they can make informed decisions about their health insurance choices, where they receive care, and how they plan for medical services.

And importantly, transparency can also build trust—a much needed commodity in healthcare. People are tired of not knowing where their money goes, especially as healthcare prices continue to climb. Transparency and trust go hand in hand. This means pricing transparency can generate trust in the healthcare system as a whole—which has the potential to improve population-level health outcomes.

Given the new federal policies and resources, promoting user-friendly transparency matters more now than ever. Learn about three catalysts for healthcare transparency in 2021