On May 6 our Office partnered with Suffolk University Law School’s Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service to host a one-of-a-kind conference to discuss healthcare consumerism. The conference highlighted how price and information transparency can help consumers make better choices when it comes to having medical procedures.
I often compare shopping for a TV with shopping for health care services to illustrate how differently we see our roles as consumers. Most consumers would never purchase a new big-ticket item without knowing the price and quality in advance, yet most of us obtain health care services without even a ballpark guess of what the final cost will be or without knowing anything about the quality of the services we are about to receive. With new price transparency measures taking effect this year, now is the time to trigger an attitude reset to focus health care on the consumer and to help consumers realize their position and power in the marketplace. We planned this conference not merely to begin this conversation, but to bring in industry experts, consumers, and regulators in an effort to create a multilateral dialogue that could help implement real change.
The conference began with a panel of health industry experts discussing how we can best stimulate this attitude adjustment. Martha Bebinger, WBUR’s healthcare reporter, moderated the discussion among experts including Division of Insurance Commissioner Joseph Murphy, Massachusetts Association of Health Plans Chairman James Roosevelt, and the head of Atrius Health, Dr. Gene Lindsey. The discussion was lively and demonstrated that all across the industry increased consumer empowerment has become a priority. Video of the full panel is available here. The panel affirmed the findings of the recently announced Mass Insight poll: consumers are eager for more cost and quality information.
Dr. Leana Wen, co-author of the book When Doctors Don’t Listen, was our keynote speaker. She encouraged all of us to think critically about the services being offered by healthcare providers and to be vigilant about asking questions and demanding answers. Video of her talk is available here.
The last part of the conference had us all putting on our consumer hats and making decisions about hypothetical knee surgery. We were given price and quality information and asked to make our choices between two major teaching hospitals, two small community hospitals, and an orthopedic specialty hospital. Though many people chose the major teaching hospital that they were referred to by their primary care physician, most people chose the other major teaching hospital, which had higher patient satisfaction, a shorter length of stay, and lower cost. It was surprising to see that no one chose either small community hospitals, likely because both had minimal knee surgery experience.
The response from conference attendees has been overwhelmingly positive. If you were unable to attend the conference, you can view the photo album, or view videos of the full panel and the keynote speech. You can also keep track of the ongoing dialogue on Twitter by following the hashtag #empowerHC.
I appreciate the great response to this conference. Check back for information on upcoming conferences and conversations about empowering healthcare consumers.
If you have a question or complaint, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs Consumer Hotline, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at 617-973-8787 or toll-free in MA at 888-283-3757.
May is Military Appreciation Month posted on May 26
May is Military Appreciation Month and the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, together with its regulatory agencies, acknowledges and remembers all the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. The Office also extends sincere and …Continue Reading May is Military Appreciation Month
Online Smarts: Dangers of Public Wi-Fi posted on May 26
Free, public Wi-Fi is available almost everywhere today. From the usual spots, such as coffee bars and airports, to the less common, such as steakhouses and amusement parks, public Wi-Fi is a convenience upon which most consumers rely. The problem with public Wi-Fi, however, …Continue Reading Online Smarts: Dangers of Public Wi-Fi
Online Smarts: Crowdfunding Scams posted on May 20
Crowdfunding websites have become major platforms for raising money for various causes, from the production of a local band’s first album to the payment of a cancer patient’s medical expenses. While websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe have been instrumental in funding entrepreneurial products and …Continue Reading Online Smarts: Crowdfunding Scams