Pricing Transparency and Provider Quality: Insights from Utah HIMSS

Posted on September 10, 2018 I Written By

Healthcare as a Human Right. Physician Suicide Loss Survivor. Janae writes about Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Data Analytics, Engagement and Investing in Healthcare. twitter: @coherencemed

Working to improve Health IT has been a major focus of Utah HIMSS this year. I am honored to serve as part of the Utah HIMSS Board. Utah HIMSS hosts educational events and luncheons for members. On August 29, 2018  the meeting focused on Pricing Transparency and Provider Quality. Health Informatics is positioned to help reduce waste in healthcare and providing better care for patients.

Bob White works with Select Health, one of the major insurance providers in the state, which is a subsidiary of Intermountain Healthcare. He was able to talk about payment models and value based care work within the Select Health group. Providing more visibility into the cost for patients and physicians has been a major focus on Select Health and payer provider entities have a unique market position. They want the cost of care delivery to be lower since they are paying the cost. Point of service adjudication requires that a lot of workflows need to be coordinated before the patient leaves the office.

Bob asked: How often do we feel like we don’t have complete information to know what is going on and what your options are?

One of the most notable things that he spoke about was the lack of adoption. They have great visibility but not everyone knows where to find that information. Some of the employees at Selecthealth have high deductible plans and in effect, become self-pay members. Becoming more educated consumers is a huge part of what Select Health has done with their pricing transparency.

Katie Harwood from the University Of Utah discussed their pricing transparency tool. The University of Utah is one of the first systems in the country to create an online interactive tool to help predict cost to patients. Patients can look up what a procedure might cost and enter information about their copay and caps. Most importantly, the cost estimator included the cost of facility and cost of provider, so patients don’t get stuck with unexpected out of network bills.

The most common search? Vaginal delivery without complications. I was thrilled to hear them speak because I’m pregnant and my provider is with the University of Utah Health. I got a cost estimate on my second visit to the OB and I was pleasantly surprised that they gave that information.  I was able to pay for what (might be) the cost of my maternity care. Being able to plan ahead is very valuable. The University of Utah has invested in creating bundled payment models to improve care coordination and as a patient, having that information has improved my healthcare experience.

While in development, the University of Utah wanted to add appointment scheduling for patients. Harwood mentioned this created a larger data matching challenge, as it was difficult to match exact providers with procedures. Insurance companies are trying to make it easier for patients to schedule and understand what their costs will be, and physician directories create unique challenges. What if you were a surgeon who performed a total knee replacement but you didn’t have the information connected with the correct insurance company for you to appear in the online scheduling tool?

Interestingly, many people go to the cost estimator tool enter “I don’t know” for some of their search criteria such as deductible and copay. Bridging the consumer gap to give even better information and creating the most accurate scheduling possible starts with efforts to create great health IT tools and adjusting them according to user behavior.

Holly Rimmasch from Health Catalyst was able to ask great questions and mentioned a program that Health Catalyst is doing to promote women in health IT. She served as a moderator and has an extensive background with pricing. They have promoted women in Health IT in the Utah area, including providing student scholarships for their Healthcare Analytics Summit in September.  A key question that Holly has focused on is “Are we making a difference in both quality and costs?”  “Does it translate into cost savings for those that are paying?” Part of her work involves bringing data sources together (clinical, financial, claims, etc.) to create transparency to services and care being provided and at what cost.  Over the last 6 years, Holly has been involved in developing a more accurate activity-based costing system. Accurate costing leads to more accurate pricing and more accurate pricing leads to improved price transparency. I am looking forward to learning more about what Health Catalyst does for improving Healthcare IT in Utah.

Norm Thurston is a Utah State Representative and I was surprised how much I enjoyed his presentation and I will tell you why. Norm Thurston has a background in statistics and I felt confident that the Utah legislature was getting good information about improving healthcare. Representative Thurston spoke about the availability of state data to see things like prescribing trends and billing trends among physicians. He asked Bob White about upcoding- and how the government of Utah looks at billing data to make that information more transparent for payers and providers. The checks and balances of legislators asking about trends based on data aren’t something I see every day in healthcare. Data backed inquiry can improve prescribing. Utah has had a decrease in opioid deaths in the last year, and the healthcare system and state efforts have actively used data to improve the numbers. Utah has historically been a state with a problem and has actively worked to improve rates of opioid deaths. One of the audience comments that I enjoyed was a question from Todd Allen, MD about how they evaluate the statistical significance of prescribing and billing differences. How do we know if using this drug or billing code 75% of the time has better outcomes that in the hospital where it is used less than 65% of the time? Having visibility and data is part of the equation for improving healthcare outcomes, and another part is interpreting the data and deciding best practices.