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Engaging Transparency Sessions at WHCC

by Fred Fortin

The WHCC conference sessions on transparency in healthcare are demonstrating that this movement is way more than a passing fad. As all stakeholders in the healthcare system — private institutions, government agencies, health plans, employers, group practices, research organizations, online service companies — are all getting in the mode of how to open up the black boxes in healthcare to consumers and payers of all stripes.

What’s fascinating is is to witness not just the measures, programs and politics unfold, but also the evolution of the questions that are being asked. Reed V. Tuckson, MD, UnitedHealth Group observes, for example, that the question of what is the best hospital is morphing into the question of what is the best hospital for me and my particular medical condition.

Robin Downey, a Senor Vice President with Aetna argues that once consumers ‘get it’ about the usefulness of healthcare information, they just want more and more. With her health plan, the black box they are opening, is “what is it going to cost me to be a covered by Aetna?” This is not just about co-pays, and premiums, but also about what Aetna is paying to their contracted doctors and hospitals. So they are starting to disclose Aetna’s actual negotiated rates with their provider network. And people are surprised wondering if they are giving away their bread and butter, that is, proprietary information that they have spent considerable money to develop.

The bar for transparency is rising, and the market place is responding. Hang on.