Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Office Visit: Transparency Empowers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Office Visit: Transparency Empowers

Article excerpt

Consumers have more resources to help them make smart purchasing decisions than ever before. From digital cameras to kitchen appliances, with just a few clicks of a mouse, shoppers can see side- by-side comparisons of different brands and product features, read reviews and find the best prices.

One challenge we face in America is making these same kinds of tools available to consumers of health care. As strange as it sounds, in most cases consumers have more available resources to help them buy a toaster than they do to choose a surgeon.

The health care industry is responding with a broad movement toward transparency of cost and quality information for health care providers. Transparency advocates seek to provide patients with information about which providers have the best outcomes for the same or equal cost.

Insurers' transparency initiatives involve a variety of strategies, all with the common goal of helping consumers measure the performance of their physicians. Many insurers measure quality or cost metrics (or a combination of the two) through one of two approaches: performance-based recognition or pay-for-performance. PBR and P4P programs publish comparative information (via the Web or a printed publication) about provider cost and/or quality. But in addition to this "public recognition," P4P programs reward providers with high performance with additional reimbursement.

Other insurers simply make public statistics such as service ratings and complication rates.

Transparency programs seek to improve the quality and value of health care to benefit patients and all health plan members. Employers have a vested interest, too, as they seek a healthier work force and lower health plan costs. But while the goals of health care transparency are laudable, the surrounding issues are complex. …

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