Researchers find shopping for medical laboratory tests increased by nearly 50%, and people are saving more than a million dollars annually by shopping for blood tests
Each year, more consumers use online healthcare price-shopping tools to find hospitals, physicians, and clinical laboratories that have the lowest prices. And medical laboratory tests is among the top services on their lists!
Researchers at Vitals of Lyndhurst, NJ, a company that publishes online physician ratings, analyzed how consumers were using its price and quality transparency tools. They confirmed that shopping for medical laboratory tests/blood work is one of the top healthcare procedures checked by consumers.
According to a recent Vitals press release, approximately 46% more people shopped for blood tests in 2015 than the year before, and they saved $1,149,682 by doing so. That’s because their health plans reward them for selecting good quality and low-price providers, as well as adopting healthy behaviors, such as losing weight, exercising more, and lowering high cholesterol scores.
This is an important trend that pathologists and medical laboratory leaders should not ignore. Experts predict even more consumers will come to rely on price transparency tools.
Health Plans and Consumers Saved Millions
The shoppers used Vitals’ SmartShopper, a cost and quality transparency service that aims to educate and transform patients into better healthcare consumers by arming them with mobile-enabled shopping tools.
People registered for the SmartShopper service through their health plans and received cash incentives for choosing cost-effective care, reported Modern Healthcare.
SmartShopper’s eight health plans—and their employer clients and consumers—collectively earned $1.46 million, while saving $12 million on healthcare procedures, according to Vitals’ Book of Business Vitals SmartShopper 2016 Report.
The average savings per procedure shopped (using the SmartShopper website or by contacting customer service) was $625 in 2015, Vitals confirmed. Checks made out to consumers by Vitals ranged from $50 to $500, which “is enough to change behavior,” stated Mitch Rothschild, Vitals’ Founder and Executive Chairman, in the Modern Healthcare report.
Castlight, the Brand Behind a ‘Core Transparency Tool’
Another recent example of a successful outcome using healthcare transparency tools is the Castlight Health platform, which made it possible for Safeway employees to access lab prices through their smartphones or computers and choose low-cost in-network labs. (See Dark Daily, “Using the Reference Pricing Strategy, Safeway and its Employees Reduce Spending on Clinical Laboratory Tests by 32% in 24 Months by Selecting Labs with Lowest Prices.” October, 26, 2016)
“Castlight is a company that should be on the radar screen of every clinical laboratory manager and pathologist,” reported The Dark Report Dark Daily’s sister publication in an issue about Reference Pricing in healthcare.
Other companies are tapping Castlight’s transparency solutions to identify and communicate with workers at health risk. For example, Walmart Stores, Inc. engaged Castlight to consolidate data about people at risk for diabetes and give them messages regarding seeing a doctor or losing weight, according to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article.
“I bet I could better predict your risk of a heart attack by where you shop and where you eat than by your genome,” declared Harry Greenspun, MD, Director of Deloitte LLP’s Center for Health Solutions in the WSJ article. He also noted that an employee who spends money at a bike shop is more likely to be in good health than someone who buys videogames.
Data Being Leveraged by Patients
In the end, healthcare transparency tools appear to benefit consumers as well as health plans and employers. The studies show that patients can be incentivized to be careful shoppers for the lowest cost quality care. For labs and pathology groups, the message is clear: take steps now to ensure test prices are transparent and easily accessible to people who are shopping for healthcare services.
—Donna Marie Pocius