In Hospital Pediatrics, Laura J. Faherty and colleagues, including Evan Fieldston and Rachel Werner, describe online price transparency data for pediatric care and the consumer experience of obtaining an out-of-pocket estimate from children’s hospitals for a common procedure. Price transparency is gaining importance as families’ portion of health care costs rise.
The study consisted of three parts: an audit of 45 children’s hospital Web sites, "secret shopper" calls to the hospitals to request price estimates for a common pediatric procedure (a tonsillectomy-adenoidectomy), and a review of 38 state-based price transparency Web sites. The authors found that less than one in five freestanding children’s hospitals provided prices on their Web sites, the most common being billed charges. One-third of the hospitals provided tools to help families obtain out-of-pocket estimates. Secret shoppers found that nine hospitals provided a dedicated phone number for price estimates, and were able to provide a personalized price estimate with a brief phone call. However, the majority provided an incomplete estimate. Less than half of the state-based price transparency Web sites allowed families to distinguish between pediatric and adult care, and only one provided a personalized price estimation tool. The analysis suggests opportunities exist to improve pediatric price transparency.