“It pays to shop around” is a well-worn adage and often true. When it comes to fees and pricing for medical procedures, though, the truth is not so simple. How do you set prices for actions that could potentially have life or death consequences? It can be a difficult question to answer.
Ethical quandaries aside, consumers are becoming more price sensitive and checking fees with both their doctor’s office and insurers. According to a recent health poll, approximately two-thirds of those polled said that pricing information influenced their health care decision. (Source: NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll). People have a strong incentive to shop around, with an increase in high-deductible insurance plans coupled with the growth of health savings accounts.
At the same time, Richard Evans, a health care analyst at Sector & Sovereign Research, said that “most health care demand is price inelastic.” Remaining competitive means appealing to some of the things patients highly value when it comes to healthcare: Safety, options and affordability. Medical imaging providers, like their doctor and hospital counterparts, should be paying attention to competitors to find out what are they doing to cut costs without sacrificing quality care, what services they are offering, and how they are setting prices.
- Cut costs without sacrificing quality care. Dynamic scheduling based on analysis of patient flow data can reduce overstaffing on typically slow days or understaffing during busy times. Streamlining and automating some processes can reduce down-time between procedures, allowing more patients to be seen in a shorter period of time.
- Offer a variety of services. On the one hand, it’s a good idea to offer services that directly compete with the same services offered by other medical imaging organizations. On the other, it’s also a good idea to offer services that other providers do not, as it creates a more varied revenue stream.
- 3. Set prices competitively. Scope out other medical imaging service providers’ price structures and see how they differ from your own organization. Are you cutting yourself short or charging too much for procedures? Obviously, don’t cut your prices so low that you lose money, but don’t price yourself out of the market, either.
Even though the implications of medical services are a bit different than what an internet provider or cell phone service offers, in the end, patients are consumers, too. With the costs of health insurance and healthcare in flux, they are finding ways to save money and that includes shopping around on price. Medical imaging service providers would do well to use the tools available at their disposal to react to market pressures and prosper by making adjustments to services and the prices charged for them.