The lead author on this breakthrough article, covered by NBC and the New York Times to name a few, is a senior in college at Washington St. Louis! Below is the abstact. The complete study is available for free by clicking the link below.
[JAMA Internal Medicine- Online First]By Jaime A. Rosenthal; Xin Lu, MS; Peter Cram, MD, MBA
Importance: Many proposals for health care reform incentivize patients to play a more active role in selecting health care providers on the basis of
quality and price. While data on quality are increasingly available, availability of pricing data is uncertain.
Objective: To examine whether we could obtain pricing data for a common elective surgical procedure, total hip arthroplasty (THA).
Design: We randomly selected 2 hospitals from each state (plus Washington, DC) that perform THA, as well as the 20 top-ranked orthopedic hospitals according to US News and World Report rankings. We contacted each hospital by telephone between May 2011 and July 2012. Using a standardized script, we requested from each hospital the lowest complete “bundled price” (hospital plus physician fees) for an elective THA that was required by one of the author’s 62-year-old grandmother. In our scenario, the grandmother did not have insurance but had the means to pay out of pocket. We explained that we were seeking the lowest complete price for the procedure. When we encountered hospitals that could provide the hospital fee only, we contacted a random hospital affiliated orthopedic surgery practice to obtain the physician fee. Each hospital was contacted up to 5 times in efforts to obtain pricing information.
Setting/Participants: All top-ranked and a sample of non–top-ranked US hospitals performing THA. Main Outcome Measures Percentage of hospitals able to provide a complete price estimate for THA (physician and hospital fee) for top-ranked
and non–top-ranked hospitals and range of prices quoted by each group.
Results: Nine top-ranked hospitals (45%) and 10 non–top-ranked hospitals (10%) were able to provide a complete bundled price (P < .001). We were able to obtain a complete price estimate from an additional 3 top-ranked hospitals (15%) and 54 non–top-ranked hospitals (53%) (P = .002) by contacting the hospital and physician separately. The range of complete prices was wide for both top-ranked ($12 500-$105 000) and non–top- ranked hospitals ($11 100-$125 798).
Conclusions and Relevance: We found it difficult to obtain price information for THA and observed wide variation in the prices that were quoted. Many health care providers cannot provide reasonable price estimates. Patients seeking elective THA may find considerable price savings through comparison shopping.
As US health care spending has continued to grow at what is widely viewed as an unsustainable rate, policy makers and researchers have proposed numerous interventions.1- 2 While potential solutions vary widely, nearly all will include incentives for patients to play a more active role in selecting hospitals and physicians on the basis of quality and price.3- 5
Data on hospital quality—and to a lesser degree physician quality—are widely available from several public and private sector sources. Such information sources include Medicare’s HospitalCompare.gov website (http://www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare), New York State’s myHealthFinder.com (http://www.myhealthfinder.com), Health Grades (http://www.healthgrades.com), and the widely used US News and World
Report hospital rankings.6- 10
Data on hospital and physician pricing remain much more difficult to obtain. While pricing transparency initiatives such as CastLight Health (http://www.castlighthealth.com) have garnered widespread media attention,11 there is very little peer-reviewed research addressing the availability of price data for medical services.12- 13 It is unclear how feasible it may be for patients to obtain pricing data for common medical services and how price estimates might vary by health care provider.
Thus, our primary objective was to examine whether it was possible to obtain pricing data for a common elective surgical procedure, total hip arthroplasty (THA), from a sample of US hospitals. Our secondary objective was to examine whether the availability of pricing data might differ among top-ranked orthopedic hospitals compared with non–top-ranked hospitals.