Friday, May 09, 2008

An Embarassment of Riches: Transparency Edition

And he's right [ed: you're surprised?]
But it gets better. Knowing my penchant for transparency in healthcare, Bob sent me a handful of relevant links and articles, which I'll share with IB readers in our first "mini-carnival:"
First up, Physician Reports is a sort of "self-serve" site that rates (dunh!) physicians. It's a free service, which is nice, but I'm a little turned off by the lack of accountability. That is, I poked around quite a bit, and still have no idea who runs the place, or how to contact them. It seems to me that there needs to be transparency in transparency, too.
Next, Florida's looking to increase the availability of cost information. A bill currently in the state Senate would require "pricing information from hospitals for 150 of the most commonly performed medical procedures to be posted on a state website." While I applaud this effort, I have two reservations: first, pricing information without matching outcomes (results) is potentially dangerous. Second, I'm not sure that legislation is really needed here: it seems to me that the market is beginning to drive carriers and providers to make these tools more widely available.
Regular readers know that we accept no paid advertising here, but we do "plug" carriers and providers whom we think deserve mention. Such is the case with HSA Trustee Services, an online Health Savings Account (HSA) administrator. What sets them apart are two interesting services they provide "over and above" just plain HSA oversight. First, they've added a "price negotiation service" to help keep their clients' out of pocket costs down. Second, they've teamed with a private lab service to help keep diagnostic expenses down, as well.
We're all familiar with the ubiquitous "name your own price" services for travel and the like. How would you like to bid on how much you'd pay for a nosejob? How about a colonoscopy? Forbes Magazine reports that "Medicine Online's network of 35 surgeons can bid for a job by responding with their fees and credentials." The service went online and live in March, and has already stirred up quite a debate. In terms of transparency, this may well be too much of a good thing.
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