At the Margins

Not being open about pricing? It'll cost you.


As high-deductible health plans become increasingly common, more and more patients are comparison shopping for health care. In fact, a recent study from Public Agenda found that 56% of Americans now actively look for pricing information before getting care.

This increase in health care shopping has significant consequences for hospital revenue. Advisory Board research found that a four-hospital system can see swings in revenue of $16 million to $40 million due to its price transparency strategy—or lack thereof.

The potential financial impact here makes it critical for providers to share concrete pricing information prior to service to steer patients away from competitors. Unfortunately, more often than not, hospitals traditionally aren’t well set up to discuss price with patients. As payment models change, hospitals must evolve from solely serving legacy payers to serving a new and growing payer: their patients.

For guidance, hospitals may want to look to ASCs and free-standing imaging centers, as they’re often ahead of the game when it comes to transparent pricing. Here is an overview of how the most progressive of these organizations have internalized patient expectations to differentiate themselves by offering price transparency as a service.

Differentiating on more than price

When a patient calls a hospital for a price quote, they’re often routed from one department to the next and given conflicting messages. On the other hand, ASCs and free-standing imaging centers typically offer a clear price right away. Many ASCs and free-standing imaging centers use this up-front pricing to their advantage in competitive markets, by attracting frustrated or confused hospital customers.

But ASCs and free-standing imaging centers don’t stop there. The best of the best use a three-step formula to frame their up-front pricing as a service to their patients:

  • Clearly communicate price
  • Reaffirm the value patients will receive
  • Pivot to immediately schedule care

This formula reflects these organizations’ understanding that knowing price in advance of service is a priority for many patients. Moreover, when patients receive up-front pricing and an affirmation of the high-quality care they’ll receive, they come to see the organization as their advocate and are more likely to schedule service there.

Are you creating an experience that makes the patient feel like you’re their advocate? To determine where you stand, ask yourself the following: "When patients ask about price..."

  • What do we quote? Charges? Rates? Out-of-pocket expense?
  • Do we name a price right away?
  • Do we validate our quality?
  • Do we move quickly to schedule the patient’s service?

Eight ways to protect your margins

We've taken a look at all the forces at play in today's ever-changing market and distilled eight mandates you must address. Make sure your to-do list contains these must-dos—and click below to explore each mandate's details, impact, and difficulty.

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