Published on February 17, 2020

OH encourages more use of online price lists

By Renee Beasley Jones, Messenger-Inquirer

Owensboro Health price lists for everything from back-to-school physicals at the Henderson Healthplex to a cesarean section at OH Regional Hospital attracted a lot of attention when they were first posted to the health system’s website early last year.

But interest waned quickly.

The price list landing page — where online visitors select which prices they want to view — started off the year as OH’s 17th most viewed page. It finished 40 slots lower at 57.

Last year, the price list landing page had 3,614 unique page visits. About one-third of those occurred in January, said Brian Hamby, director of marketing and public relations.

By comparison, OH’s home page gets about 140,000 unique views a year.

In January 2019, the Trump administration required hospitals across the nation to post prices for services and procedures online. Federal officials said transparency would drive competition and promote better value in health care.

“While usage dipped over the year, we still believe it is important that consumers have access to this information and feel it’s worth the investment,” Hamby said. “Our goal as a health system is to empower consumers with the tools they need to be active participants in their health care. We would love to see more people take advantage of this resource ...”

Instead of posting huge databases filled with lines of numbers related only to its hospitals — OHRH and OH Muhlenberg Community Hospital — the health system viewed the new federal regulation as an opportunity. OH officials also posted prices for services at its three Healthplexes in Henderson, Madisonville and Powderly.

More importantly, OH officials used a third-party firm to analyze the price of the health system’s most-common procedures and compare them to Baptist Health Madisonville, Deaconess Midtown Hospital, Methodist Hospital, Ohio County Hospital and Saint Vincent Evansville. For example, the list shows a private room at OHRH is 33% lower than the market price, and an outpatient foot X-ray is 56% lower than competitors’.

“Owensboro Health invested $25,000 over two years in order to create a better experience for the patients we serve,” Hamby said. “We felt that consumers would be much better served with a robust platform rather than a simple price list. This investment gives our consumers the information they need to make informed decisions and makes it easier to access.”

Last year, health officials across the nation expressed concern about the federal government’s new regulation. Hospital pricing is complicated and difficult for the average person to understand, they said.

Many inpatient admissions come from emergency departments. During that type of medical situation, patients don’t have time to download lists and dwell on value.

Medical professionals also argued that few services are “shoppable” because too many variables exist, and price alone does not drive decisions. People often seek inpatient services conveniently located near family and friends.

After only one year, it is too early to say whether consumers used OH’s pricing tool to shop for procedures, Hamby said. “But, nationally, the trend is moving that way, and we expect that it will continue to emerge as people become aware that tools like this are available.”

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital, the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 200 providers at more than 20 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a surgical weight loss center and program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have 16,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 24,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 200 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 70,000 Emergency Department visits, more than a million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.