In January, the Indiana Hospital Association (IHA) launched careINsight, a new online tool to help Hoosier consumers compare hospital quality ratings and review average pricing for the 100 most common Indiana inpatient services. News of this consumer-oriented resource is catching on around the state through positive word-of-mouth and media coverage, as well as hospitals’ individual efforts to promote the website with patients.
“Our goal with careINsight was to create an easy-to-use tool that would make charge and quality data available to the public so Hoosiers could make more fully informed decisions about their health care,” said IHA President Douglas Leonard.
Nearly two years in the making, the effort to address price transparency was made possible by the hard work of IHA staff. The IHA Price Transparency Task Force, led by Martin Padgett, president and CEO of Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville and president of the IHA Board of Directors, guided the association’s efforts.
“It has been 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 Padgett. “We want to ensure this tool helps break down the confusion in a way that everyone can understand.”
The website, available at mycareINsight.org, includes a video explaining how to navigate the price and quality comparison tool and another that helps consumers understand the high cost of health care.
So far, the effort appears to be paying off. As of March 4, approximately 9,000 users have visited mycareINsight.org since its launch in January. Of those users, approximately 6,900 were new and 2,100 were returning to the site.
A full 86 percent of users traveled through the entire site, from the homepage all the way to the page that showed search results.
“As website traffic goes, the data is showing impressive usage by Hoosier consumers who visit careINsight,” said Jennifer Hurtubise, IHA’s director of communications.
Early in the development process of careINsight, Indiana hospitals turned to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce for their input. As a leader of the business community, the Indiana Chamber’s support was crucial to gauging the site’s credibility.
“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.”
Responses from media outlets also have been largely positive toward hospitals’ efforts to help consumers. Because IHA realizes careINsight will improve over time, the association continues to welcome feedback from members and the public to aid plans for future modifications to the website.
“We are continuing to improve the information available, including turning complex medical language into understandable terms for consumers and the timeliness of the data. It is definitely a work in progress and we will continue working with other stakeholders to bring even greater transparency to health care,” said IHA Vice President Bernie Ulrich.
Through careINsight, consumers can search for hospital-specific charges and quality ratings. A link is also provided that directs consumers to a hospital’s financial assistance policy.
“It is imperative we take this opportunity to help consumers become better-informed patients and, as a result, create more confidence in the health care system,” said Leonard.
“IHA recommended that hospitals add careINsight links to their own websites, along with other information related to price and quality transparency.”
Ensuring financial assistance pages contain useful information helps position Indiana hospitals as leaders in charge and quality transparency.
Many Indiana hospitals added a careINsight link and other useful price transparency information to their financial assistance pages. Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper added a message from E. Kyle Bennett, Memorial’s executive vice president and COO, and listed the benefits and capabilities of careINsight along with a link to IHA’s online tool.
At the same time IHA was developing careINsight, hospitals around the state created transparency informational webpages to help consumers find the answers they are looking for.
Community Health Network in Indianapolis took price transparency one step forward for its patients by creating My Estimate, a tool to help consumers determine their out-of-pocket health care expenses.
“Hoosiers expect a high-quality clinical experience with every hospital visit. But, Community recognized that communication and transparency were two big areas in need of greater emphasis,” said Tom Malasto, chief patient experience officer at Community. “By listening to our patients and looking for ways to improve their experience, especially in this era of consumer-directed health care, Community set out to break down price confusion and provide access to meaningful information regarding their out-of-pocket expenses.”
Led by Community’s newly created centralized pricing office, the network studied a similar initiative developed by Baptist Health South Florida to centralize its pricing function and provide estimates for potential patients.
Community works directly with patient insurance companies to generate accurate price estimates before patients undergo treatment. The tool uses a combination of online resources and live analysts to ensure an easy-to-use process that provides a more refined price estimate, improving the overall patient experience.
“Our focus is to serve as advocates for all Community patients,” said Kipp Finchum, vice president of reimbursement for Community Health Network. “The network wants to arm consumers with the knowledge they need to access quality health care in a seamless, painless manner. With one phone call, patients can gain information about out-of-pocket costs and be prepared to move forward with the care they need.”
According to Finchum, My Estimate has received an average of 75 price estimate requests per week since it launched in January, and patient feedback has been positive. In fact, one patient’s response to the out-of-pocket estimate illustrates the need for greater price transparency and education about services: She was surprised at how affordable the service was after having delayed the procedure for months based on her financial concerns.
Because careINsight relies on publicly available data on the average hospital charge for a specific inpatient service, the IHA tool does not factor in the rates paid by private insurers. Community’s access to private insurance data, on the other hand, enables them to drill down to more specific costs and, when necessary, contact insurance company representatives, as well as physicians, to refine the price estimate even further.
But there is clearly a need within Indiana’s health care landscape for both tools.
“Looking at careINsight side-by-side with My Estimate, we’re very supportive of what IHA is doing with price transparency.
“The common denominator between them is the power of information. And we’ve just put that power into the hands of Hoosier consumers where it belongs,” said Finchum.