Study: Transparency tool helps decrease patient spending

Allowing patients to review different providers allows them to find treatment they can afford.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association explored the impact of Castlight Health's cost transparency tool on patient spending. The study focused on three common medical services: laboratory tests, advanced imaging services and clinician office visits, and analyzed claims from more than 500,000 subscribers who had access to the tool. 

Researchers found that access to the cost transparency tool resulted in significantly decreased spending. While spending on clinician office visits fell only 1 percent, there was a 14 percent drop in costs for laboratory tests and a 13 percent decrease for imaging. The study also noticed that claim payments were lower for all services for subscribers who used the tool versus those employees who did not.

Dr. Neeraj Sood, director of research at the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California, who led the study, believes that the use of cost transparency tools will rise dramatically in the future. This trend could drastically reduce health care spending, he explains.

"The savings will increase as more and more of the estimated 150 million Americans with employer-sponsored insurance gain access to information on prices and quality," Dr. Sood wrote in a statement accompanying the study. 

Dr. Sood also stated that he believed wider use of cost transparency tools could eventually nudge high-priced providers to reduce their prices to better reflect industry averages. 

When patients find themselves unprepared for the cost of their medical treatment, which is increasingly common with the rise of high-deductible insurance plans, care facilities can encounter cash flow difficulties that grow to affect the quality of care provided. Healthcare revenue cycle management professionals are encouraged to outsource receivable management in order to reduce the number of dollars written off to bad debt and realize a better patient-provider relationship.