What do Azar and Walmart have in common? Helping healthcare consumers. What are you doing?

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Remember playing hide-and-seek, when the person who was “it” would count to 10 and then yell: “Ready or not, here I come!” as everyone else scrambled to hide? Well, in the game of prices and healthcare, ready or not, price transparency is here. With the administration’s concerted effort to ensure that consumers understand what their healthcare costs will be, Azar’s latest proposed rule around pharmaceutical drugs should come as no surprise. The rule will require pharmaceutical companies to disclose list prices in TV ads, allowing consumers to “learn the cost wholesalers pay for most drugs covered by Medicare and Medicaid.”[1] Yet, the announcement immediately put pharma into a tailspin with policy experts bashing the idea because consumers might become confused.

Confused? Really? Give us a little credit. When we walk into a hospital we don’t stop being savvy consumers. We are experts at shopping and paying for products in stores and on our smartphones and we don’t get confused when we see a list of prices and options. We also know how to ask registrars and schedulers how much our healthcare services are going to cost. So, we aren’t confused. And we aren’t stupid. What we are is dissatisfied because we aren’t getting solid answers about how much our services and procedures are going to cost before treatment.

And guess what? Dissatisfied patients are less likely to willingly pay for their healthcare services, according to a recent survey of 500 random consumers who had an experience with a hospital business office. To put it another way, “patients are more likely to pay their bills in full if they are satisfied with their business office experience.”[2]

Is it consumer confusion that concerns healthcare providers and pharma or is it worry that people will realize what they are being charged is way too much when they see true pricing?

Aurora Aguilar, in an editorial for Modern Healthcare, writes: “Why would an industry that so often references value need a shove? Because hospitals and drugmakers still shy away from revealing what patients will pay for their services and products despite the near-deafening chorus from consumers begging for financial relief.”[3]

While providers and pharma waste time figuring out ways to sort of publish prices for consumers, Walmart is actually doing something about the skyrocketing cost of healthcare. Retailers, especially Walmart, are experts when it comes to understanding what consumers want. And they listen to consumers because their bottom line depends on it. Walmart has seen that customers are spending less on their retail products because they are forced to spend their money on healthcare and medicine. Walmart has proactively entered the game in several ways such as partnering with health plans to encourage customers to buy healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables at its stores, operating health clinics across the country, and entering into contracts with major providers to offer centers of excellence for large ticket procedures such as knee replacements. And now Walmart is into telemedicine. Recently, in partnership with RB, a global health and hygiene company, Walmart has “launched a telehealth initiative with Doctor On Demand.”[4]

Retailers could teach providers and pharma a thing or two, beginning with the fact that consumers aren’t stupid. They are tired of being forced to deal with antiquated back office methods in healthcare. It’s time to get with the times and treat patients like the consumers they really are. Price transparency is a good start. And by price transparency we don’t mean publishing a charge master or forcing people to click on links that then give them estimates on what their drug costs will be.

We are talking about providing people with a true retail experience in healthcare. Giving them a site that  allows them to shop for services and medications and see actual pricing and options based on their health plans and networks.

HealthQRS can set you up with a full retail site right now. Our platform is ready and we can help you proactively publish prices and beat the competition who is digging in their heels waiting for the forced mandates. Walmart could even use our platform for their employees and their customers.

HealthQRS provides you with the infrastructure to create an online experience for consumers including accurate pricing (not just estimates). We enable telehealth connectivity as well. Our technology enables people to connect to more cost-effective, consumer-oriented healthcare options and we keep them in-network. HealthQRS integrates fully to your EHR and can also enhance your existing portals and other patient engagement solutions and improve your meaningful use numbers and increase meaningful use funds.

HealthQRS is the perfect vertical application for integrated delivery networks. We provide regulation compliance and serve as a marketing tool for your facilities. In addition, HealthQRS allows you to be compliant with the new CMS transparency rules beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

We are a software-as-a-service (SaaS), so you have no capital investment, just a low monthly fee. We also have a smartphone application that consumers can use to shop, see actual costs, schedule and pay for services with a few finger taps.

HealthQRS has over 15 years of experience developing healthcare retail experiences for people and our founders have over 50 combined years of e-commerce experience. We invite you to watch our user-friendly app video that you can use to win consumers. We also have a point-of-service solution video that may interest you. You can also check out our E-Commerce Medical Marketplace Flyer for more information. Why not contact us right now to schedule a personalized demo?

Be assured, Walmart is going to give their consumers an easy shopping experience and help them with their healthcare needs along the way. You need to be giving your consumers that same level of customer service.

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[1] Aurora Aguilar, “Editorial: Price transparency’s day of reckoning,” Modern Healthcare, Oct. 18, 2018 http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20181018/NEWS/181019883

[2] Angie Stewart, “Patient experience is tied to payment collections – 5 survey findings,” Becker’s ASC Review, Oct. 15, 2018, https://www.beckersasc.com/asc-coding-billing-and-collections/patient-experience-is-tied-to-payment-collections-5-survey-findings.html

[3] Aguilar, “Editorial: Price transparency’s day,” Modern Healthcare, Oct. 18, 2018 http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20181018/NEWS/181019883

[4] Ayla Ellison, “Walmart launches telehealth initiative with Doctor On Demand,” Becker’s Hospital Review, Oct. 23, 2018, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/telehealth/walmart-launches-telehealth-initiative-with-doctor-on-demand.html?origin=cioe&utm_source=cioe

 

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