INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Consumers shopping for health care in Indiana can now use a free website to compare hospital charges and quality ratings. Developed by the Indiana Hospital Association, careINsight—or mycareINsight.org—will help Hoosiers better understand what goes into hospital billing and key questions to ask before seeking treatment.
“The confusion over health care pricing has gone on for too long, while the release of huge amounts of medical data by the federal government has done little to help consumers,” said Douglas Leonard, president of Indiana Hospital Association. “Our goal with careINsight was to create an easy-to-use tool that could clear up some of the confusion by making price and quality data available to the public so Hoosiers can make a more fully informed decision about their health care.”
The website, available at mycareINsight.org, displays hospital charge data compiled from the Indiana State Department of Health and based on the 100 most common Indiana inpatient services.
In addition, people who visit the site can compare Indiana hospitals side-by-side based on quality measures data such as patient satisfaction, mortalities, readmissions, early elective deliveries and infections.
“The quality of the care patients receive is just as important as the price. It is important to see other patients’ outcomes when consumers evaluate their treatment options,” said Leonard.
The website includes a video to explain how to navigate the tool to compare hospital charges and quality data, and another that helps consumers understand the high cost of health care.
“It has been very difficult trying to explain to the public the difference between prices and charges in a system where almost no one pays the amount listed on a hospital bill. Everyone pays a different rate,” said Martin Padgett, president and CEO of Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville and president of the IHA Board of Directors.
Padgett led IHA’s task force of hospital leaders to help guide the development of this new tool. The website will not contain hospital data from private insurance companies, which negotiate payment rates with hospitals and garner discounts for higher volumes.
“Years of government payment shortfalls and commercial insurance negotiations for hospital services have hampered our efforts to tell patients what each procedure cost and why. We want to ensure this tool helps break down the confusion in a way that is easier for everyone to understand,” added Padgett.
The careINsight tool includes a search engine to look up charges by location, hospital and/or procedure. Results will show a hospital-to-hospital comparison by quality and links to hospital websites, as well as provide tips, education and links to financial aid information.
One Procedure. Two Different Hospitals. A Variety of Costs.
When comparing prices at two different hospitals, consumers are sometimes faced with a different price tag for the same procedure.
According to IHA, the reason for the difference depends on a number of factors, such as facility, staffing, equipment costs and range of services offered. The health care services that people need can vary from hospital to hospital.
For example, life-saving services such as intensive care units, ambulance services, transplant programs, trauma centers and burn units are expensive when available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And these costs are factored into all the services for which a particular hospital charges.
In addition, the individual hospital’s mission can affect pricing, because of the patient population it serves and the necessity to provide essential public services. In 2012 alone, Indiana hospitals absorbed $3 billion in unpaid charges by uninsured – costs that are then factored into the prices for other hospital services.
“Ultimately, each patient is unique,” said Leonard. “A procedure performed on a 27-year-old, otherwise healthy male will likely cost less than the same procedure performed on a 57-year-old male who is overweight and diabetic.”
Business Community Weighs In
The business community has a particular interest in ensuring health care providers are doing all they can to address consumer concerns on pricing. Early in the development process of careINsight, Indiana hospitals turned to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce to get their input.
“People in Indiana want to understand the prices they will pay and the quality they will receive for the services they purchase, and health care is no different,” said Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. “We applaud how our hospitals have responded by creating careINsight, which helps guide patients to the resources and information they need to make the best decision for their treatment.”
Health care systems are experiencing massive change and hospitals have been actively working to reduce their own costs below historic levels by cutting administrative expenses, better managing supply costs and streamlining patient flow. Hospitals and health systems are redesigning the process of care to improve the value for patients by collaborating with physicians, identifying unnecessary variations in practice patterns and developing standardized protocols for procedures.
“Indiana hospitals are a vital part of their communities, and the services they provide extend well beyond the four walls of the hospital,” said IHA’s Leonard. “Hospitals are connecting with local organizations and creating innovative programs to build stronger communities, every day.”
In addition to providing the day-to-day care of patients, hospitals throughout Indiana address basic needs of the community, such as food, shelter and education. Hospitals also promote healthier lifestyles through free health screenings that create opportunities for people to improve their lives.
“But, we also have a responsibility to making sure health care is affordable,” added Leonard.
Future Efforts in Price Transparency
While the launch of IHA’s new online pricing tool is the first of its kind in Indiana available for anyone to use, Leonard admits it’s not a perfect solution.
“As a free resource for consumers, however, this effort represents a major step forward toward greater price transparency. No one group in Indiana is better suited to do this than the hospitals themselves and the thousands of health care professionals who are providing the critical care to help improve the lives of all Hoosiers – each and every day,” said Leonard.
The word “transparency” is nothing new for Indiana’s health care industry. For many years, Hoosier hospitals have embraced greater transparency of their quality ratings with changes that revolutionized the focus on quality and patient safety. As hospitals embraced transparency for quality, according to Leonard, the public can count on hospitals to do so with price.
“Indiana hospitals fully support the gathering and reporting of quality and charge data, but it’s up to us to help consumers make sense of this data, which is why we’re so excited to make careINsight freely available to the public.”