Overall, 17% of websites provide geographically relevant healthcare price estimates relating to specific interventions, according to a research letter published online Dec. 4 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Allison Kratka, from Duke University in Durham, NC, and colleagues examined the availability of price information for four nonemergency medical interventions. Searches were conducted for eight U.S. cities, and results were included from 1,726 websites from 64 searches; 1,346 of the websites were not advertisements.
The researchers found that 21.9% of the websites were price transparency sites relevant to the intervention in question; 28.4% linked to single providers/clinics; 4.7% provided quality information without prices; and 27.6% and 17.4%, respectively, provided generic information and unrelated information. Across healthcare interventions, the categories of search results differed significantly. Seventeen percent of sites provided geographically relevant price estimates, with significant variation by intervention. There was a difference by location in the proportion of websites providing at least one geographically-relevant price estimate, varying from 27.3% in Chicago to 7.1% in Baltimore. Most websites did not specify whether the price quoted was the consumer’s out-of-pocket cost; there was considerable variation in the prices listed on the sites within interventions.
“Our findings suggest that there is substantial room for improvement in providing consumers with ready access to healthcare prices online,” the authors write. “Policy makers should consider mandating that payers and providers make these prices available to consumers.”