In Sea of Information, Consumers Swim to FAIR Health’s Shoppable Services Tool

August 16, 2021

As hospitals seek to comply with new federal transparency rules, consumers are finding FAIR Health’s newly launched shoppable services tool already allows them to compare costs for hundreds of shoppable services for free. The tool has attracted nearly 30,000 unique visitors since its recent launch.

A federal rule requires all US hospitals to post their prices online in a consumer-friendly list of “shoppable services” that patients typically plan and schedule in advance—such as a cataract surgery or colonoscopy. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have identified 70 of these shoppable services, and requires hospitals to fill in the remaining 230 nonurgent services that the hospital regularly provides.

The purpose of the rule is, in part, to help consumers “shop” for services and compare costs. But, when searching for a shoppable service, consumers have to visit the websites of different hospitals—and potentially multiple locations—to find costs. Since there is no standard format for presenting this information, and since consumers must navigate multiple websites, comparisons can be difficult. Although required since January of this year, many hospitals have not yet published their lists of shoppable services. When they do, the lists often do not provide any context for the prices, even though consumers may want to consider more than just cost when choosing a provider.

FAIR Health has developed its own tool that offers a different approach to helping consumers shop for services. FAIR Health’s shoppable services tool—freely available on its award-winning consumer website, fairhealthconsumer.org—offers a list of more than 300 shoppable services. This includes the 70 services specified by CMS, as well as many others that are typically included on the shoppable services lists of hospitals and health systems.

Consumers browse through the services, or search for a specific procedure, using the same procedure codes that hospitals use to bill for services. After users select a procedure code, they are presented with cost results that include an estimate of the average in-network and out-of-network costs for that service in their geographic area, together with the costs for other related services that the consumer may not know to ask about—such as anesthesia costs for a colonoscopy. Consumers can also explore cost estimates for the same procedure in surrounding zip codes if they want to expand the parameters of their search.

This cost information is presented against the backdrop of extensive contextual, educational information—including articles, videos, a glossary and checklists—to guide them as they plan and budget for their medical expenses or negotiate the price of a service with a hospital.

Consumers come to the shoppable services tool from all around the country—the most common states for visitors are Texas, California, New York, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. They search for a wide array of services—most recently, the top searches included colonoscopy, speech and hearing treatment, and psychotherapy.

The significant traffic to the tool demonstrates that consumers are hungry for price transparency information, in a format and accompanied by instructive material that make the information actionable. As hospital compliance with the federal rule evolves, FAIR Health will continue to help consumers navigate the waters of our healthcare system, and make informed decisions about their care.