Showing posts with label #CMS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #CMS. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

When Patients Begin Searching for Hospital Price Information, what is Your Response?

Beginning on January 1, 2021, patients should be able to search a hospital or health system website for the prices on 200 standard procedures. Mandated by CMS in 2020, the purpose was to provide a measure of price transparency for patients and consumers when seeking medical care.

Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay 

What happened?

In randomly searching the internet on hospitals and health systems websites for pricing information, I found a confusing maze of information.  In all cases, the ability to find and search the information was difficult at best. I know my way around a website, search terms, and the internet as a healthcare provider and vendor marketing professional.  If I have difficulty finding, searching, and using the information to decide, how is a consumer or patient?

Kudos to any hospital or health system that provided an experience that made the information easily accessible, searchable, and user-friendly.

I am sure that over time with prodding from CMS, the ability for a patient to search for a hospital or health systems website for pricing information on 200 standard procedures will improve and be easier to find, more user-friendly, with a better user experience.

Price transparency and a good user experience is not a question of if but when.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

How is the healthcare organization preparing for the eventuality?

In answering the question, there are four strategic dimensions for managing the patient's price search for consideration. 

1.       Marketing Plan - How are you positioning the hospital and the newly available price and shoppable services information in the market, i.e., what the detailed marketing plan? 

2.       Engagement Plan - What are your key messages that need to be delivered to patients and the community? What channels- digital, social, and traditional will be used to provide the key messages? 

3.       Experience Plan - What are the training programs and Q&As created to equip the employees who will most likely face questions from patients and the community regarding your prices and shoppable services? 

4.       Crisis Communications Plan -What are the talking points you will use to defend higher prices in services than your competitors? What are your talking points when you decide to raise your lower process to those of a competitor?

These four dimensions of the patient price information puzzle are not an afterthought. They should foster a much-needed critical strategy discussion and tactical marketing execution in the age of price transparency.  As much as we would like, patient pricing information cannot be left to the "we'll deal with this if any questions come up" strategy, because we made it so difficult to find and use.  Pricing and shoppable service information is becoming a strategic imperative that is an essential part of the organizational, business, financial, marketing, patient engagement, and experience plans.

If it's not, then don't talk about how patient or consumer-focused you are; either walk the talk or don't talk.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, you can email me at 

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The opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A neutral rating of satisfaction at best for hospitals from consumers?

To improve satisfaction the hospital needs to focus on these four areas- the employees and culture,  experience, engagement and value.  Anything less and one is wasting time, money and human resources.

By now nearly everyone has read or heard the accounts of the CMS launch of the 5 star rating on hospitals based on the HCAHPS scores for consumers.  So as to not to recap, what follows are a couple of links for the reader. One is from Healthcare Finance News  251 hospitals earn 5 stars, 101 earn 1 star, in new CMS Hospital Compare rankings (full list)Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services assigns ratings to more than 3,500 hospitals. The other is the link to the CNS website that a consumer would use, Hospital Compare.

What does it all mean from a marketing perspective?

Well, it’s not good and here is why.

The rating scale is five stars with one star being the lowest and  five stars being the best.  A three score is a neutral rating, meaning it’s neither good nor bad, just there. And for a hospital or health system brand that is the kiss of death.  No brand loyalty here and if the opportunity presents itself for the healthcare consumer to switch providers, they will.

With millions of dollars poured into new facilities and amenities like private rooms, on demand dinning, HD TVs, wireless networks, etc., hospitals and health systems thought that they could increase satisfaction levels by focusing on the hotel services.

What was forgotten is the healthcare consumer is paying attention, and they looked right past all of that and into the experience. And the experience doesn't match the claims in the marketing campaigns.  I especially like the "it’s all about you messages" then the hospital is rated a three.

It’s time for hospitals and associations to stop whining.

There are issues in some regards to the ratings, sample sizes and high satisfaction levels do not necessarily translate into higher quality care. We all get that. But even so, the general tone of the response in the stories in the major news outlets makes the associations, hospitals and health systems look like whiners, with hospitals talking about all that is wrong with the rating.  That’s right I said whining.  And living in the Chicago-land area there are a bevy of independent hospital and system hospitals that are average at best.

But the fact remains, the ratings are here and are here to stay, so get over it.

Hospitals are already being seen as the bad guy now, and this only reinforces that I really don’t care messages that those types of comments create in the mind of the healthcare consumer.

What to do?

I will keep this simple for the hospitals and health systems, satisfaction is no great mystery.  There are four things to focus:

1. Employees and culture
A hospital or health system will never have highly satisfied patients or healthcare consumers if the employees are not happy and love what they do. If the culture doesn’t support a healthcare consumer or patient focus then that message comes through loud and clear via the employees. And stating that you are customer focused or patent focused does not make it so. See “What does a customer focused hospital or healthcare enterprise look like?”,  at to learn how.

2. Healthcare consumer & patient engagement
It’s a complicated world out there for the patient and healthcare consumer, so engagement is critical to success.  That is engagement at a very personal level and focus.  Remember that an individual is only a patient one-third of the time that encounters the hospital or health system.  The other two-thirds of the time they are a healthcare consumer. Engagement should be viewed as the opportunity to create, engage, foster and nourish an enduring relationship with those individuals and families.  See “Is healthcare consumer and patient engagement all of the time the new reality?”,  at for tips and strategies to accomplish engagement.

3. Experience
There are over 145 different touch-points along eight dimensions of interaction, that a healthcare consumer and patient are exposed too that defines the experience. That is an awful lot of information used consciously and subconsciously by a healthcare consumer or patient.  The strategy and process that a healthcare provider must use, needs to be multiple in scopes, parallel to other efforts and integrated across multiple channels and touch-points in its approach.  For more information in this topic read “The healthcare consumer lives in a multi-channel environment; the response is? “, at

4. Value
In today's world, it's about value, benefit, price and convenience to the healthcare consumer. It's about the answering the healthcare consumer’s question of what is my ROI for using you?  Does the level of experience and engagement equal the price paid.  If not the experience and engagement will most likely be subpar as well.  Here comes the three rating again.  This one really has an impact on marketing and sets the stage for the engagement and experience.  In “How is healthcare consumerism changing provider marketing?”,  at  addresses why value is very important in today healthcare world.

This is not easy by any means.   These four areas touch every aspect of the hospital and health system.  And the sooner one learns to integrate and focus on the needs of the health care consumer and patient, not the hospital or health system, the sooner the ratings will improve.