Healthcare prices hard to find online
By Lisa Rapaport
December 4, 2017
Reuters Health – Consumers who search online for prices of common medical procedures may be disappointed by what they find, a U.S. study suggests.
Researchers used the search engines Google and Bing to check the cost of common services like cholesterol tests, hip replacements and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in 8 cities: New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Seattle; Baltimore, Maryland; Charlotte, North Carolina; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Tallahassee, Florida.
They did a simple search, such as “cost of hip replacement in Los Angeles,” swapping in different medical services and cities each time, to see how often the results would lead consumers to a price.
Of 1,346 websites in the search results that weren’t advertisements, only 234, or 17 percent, provided geographically relevant price information, the study found.
“Our findings suggest that there is substantial room for improvement in providing consumers with ready access to health care prices online,” Dr. Peter Ubel of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues write in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The lack of price transparency online persists at a time when a growing number of consumers are turning to the Internet to make decisions about their health. It also comes at a time when many consumers are either uninsured or have medical benefits with high deductibles that require them to pay steep out-of-pocket fees for their care.
Among the websites that turned up in the search results, only 295, or 22 percent, were designed to explain pricing for a specific medical intervention, the study found.
Another 382 websites belonged to single providers or clinics, while 63 gave information on quality without any details on pricing, the study also found.