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Is There Such a Thing as a Price Guarantee in Healthcare?

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Is There Such a Thing as a Price Guarantee in Healthcare?

The consumerization of healthcare has led many hospitals to make multiple changes that have been a net positive for patients and providers. By mimicking other industries such as banking, retail and lodging, healthcare is creating a more patient-focused experience that has helped boost patient satisfaction and increased revenue. But unlike other industries, in healthcare, there is typically no price guarantee.

Take the Mayo Clinic, for example. When patients want to see prices for services rendered at the world-renowned medical center, they visit costestimator.mayoclinic.org and answer a few questions. A price estimate is generated based on those inputs. (Self-service for the win.) But beneath the price estimate, in small print, the Mayo Clinic explains that the estimate is just that—an estimate. It’s neither a quote nor a guaranteed price.

Unlike the industries that healthcare has been imitating to increase its appeal with consumers, hospitals are also in the business of saving lives and treating complex medical conditions. And sometimes that means unforeseen circumstances and complications can render an estimate essentially useless.

It may be tempting to offer a price guarantee—after all, what’s an estimate worth if it doesn’t reflect the final price? But there are just too many factors that could change after the estimate is delivered, making a price guarantee a risky proposition. As the Mayo Clinic puts it: “Your actual costs may be higher or lower depending on many factors, including, but not limited to, your physician's treatment choices, actual services rendered, complications, your particular health care needs, and the details of your insurance coverage, if any.”

Offering a price guarantee isn’t unheard of, though. When used strategically for services such as imaging, which data have shown fluctuate very little between estimate and final price, it can be a great marketing tool.

To guarantee or not to guarantee was a “Conversations of Four” topic at the recent EXCHANGE: Parallon’s Revenue Cycle Leadership Event. One participant even suggested guaranteeing the accuracy of these “stable” estimates within 90 percent of the final bill, helping to further mitigate risk. The better takeaway from EXCHANGE? Don’t fall into the guarantee trap; instead, focus efforts on scripting clearly, explaining that the accuracy of estimates cannot be guaranteed.