Cost Transparency and Patient Satisfaction

The majority of Americans report consistently being surprised by their medical bills, often because very few patients ever receive cost estimates before care.

The majority of Americans report consistently being surprised by their medical bills, often because very few patients ever receive cost estimates before care, according to a new TransUnion Healthcare survey of insured consumers.

Although demand for pre-treatment cost estimates is growing—63% of respondents want to know the full cost of care—just 25% are offered it. As a result, two-thirds of consumers are surprised when they receive their medical bills.

“Today’s cost-aware consumer has a greater expectation that providers will offer upfront cost estimates and timely and accurate post-treatment bills,” Dave Wojczynski, senior vice president of TransUnion Healthcare, said in a statement. “With consumers placing more emphasis on billing and payment when evaluating quality of care, it’s imperative that providers have the technology and processes to meet this consumer demand.”

Unfortunately, those who seek out more information find it difficult to do so. According to the results, 54% of patients who tried to find out more reported they were either sometimes or always confused by bills and 62% were either sometimes or always surprised by out-of-pocket costs.

More than 80% of respondents said receiving pre-treatment cost estimates and insurance coverage estimates would be “helpful” or “extremely helpful” in managing medical costs.

The survey results found that patient satisfaction and cost transparency are highly correlated. Of those patients who gave high ratings to their quality of care, 80% also said their billing and payment experiences were usually positive. At the same time, nearly 85% of those who gave poor ratings for quality of care, also gave poor ratings for billing and payment experiences.

“Our survey results shed light on the fact that patients are more attuned to healthcare costs and billing experiences as they take a more active role in evaluating and selecting their healthcare options,” said Wojczynski. “Front-end solutions that provide upfront cost estimates, and back-end solutions that deliver accurate bills, will be critical as consumers continue to link their billing experience to quality of care. Accurate, timely and transparent cost information will help improve overall patient satisfaction and will increase return visits to providers.”