Devil’s Advocate: The Challenges in Price Transparency

challenges in price transparencyWe’ve been yelling from the rooftops, promoting price transparency for the last three years. It has been assumed that showing patients how much their medical procedures cost will help drive down prices, improve patient consumerism and promote providers to offer affordable options. Providers across the country have jumped on board with the transparency plan, but there are a few roadblocks affecting the success of this bursting industry:

  1. Charges are not the same as prices

As consumers, we are trained to believe that when we see a price, that is all we will be charged for the product or service. In health care however, if you are able to find a price estimate for a procedure, that often does not take into account additional fees. Ex: Radiologist-reading fees at hospitals tacked on after the procedure

  1. Translating quality metrics into useful information can be subjective

Every patient is unique and rarely is one patient’s experience the same as another’s. Quality can be subjective when patients are judging a provider based on things like whether or not the nurse smiled or frowned and whether or not the patient was pleased with their diagnosis. To have true quality transparency, it needs to be clear that each provider is being compared apples to apples.

  1. Specialists and providers often bill patients separately for a procedure

Some providers are able to provide bundled payments, but when multiple specialists and providers are part of a patient’s experience they will often send multiple bills. For instance, if a patient is examining the cost of a surgical procedure they have to consider whether or not the anesthesiologist, the physician and their home health provider will charge them separately.

  1. Insurance payers have different pricing set for different care providers

Understanding what a patient in a high-deductible health plan is responsible for as far as charges versus an uninsured patient or someone electing to pay out-of-pocket really varies. On the same note, different insurance payers have varying contracted rates with care providers, so determining true costs across the bar gets confusing.


On, we list clear self-pay prices, meaning the price a patient would pay if they were electing to pay 100% out-of-pocket without insurance. More payers are looking for ways to reward their people for shopping around for lower priced options however, so we can also serve as a solution for those payers who have large populations of patients in high-deductible plans.

Transparency in health care can seem overwhelming, but we have taken steps to eliminate the roadblocks discussed above in the following ways:

  1. We include all fees in one price. This means no bills being sent to patients down the road for facility fees or interpretation fees.
  2. We have created a grading system for all of our providers in order to eliminate bias, grading providers on over 50 key points including everything from accreditations to technology to wait times to convenient parking.
  3. We have not added surgical procedures to our website (yet) but when we do, the payments will be bundled for patients. Save On Medical will then worry about divvying up payment among specialists. The simpler for the patient, the better.

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Price Transparency’s Impact on Healthcare Shopping

Imagine if we shopped for our groceries the same way we shopped for healthcare procedures. We walk down an aisle at the grocery store and it’s filled with nondescript brown boxes. They’re all the same size, labeled with the things that we need like apples, bananas and lettuce; but we have no way of determining the prices or the qualities of our options.

So we fill up our grocery cart and head to the checkout counter. The cashier rings us up and we ask how much it will all cost. She responds that it will be $300 today and you’ll get a bill in the mail for the rest of the amount. You wonder out loud how much more it will cost and when the bills will stop coming but you don’t get a straight answer.

That is how we shop for healthcare.


With the average family spending $4800 out-of-pocket on their healthcare more patients are searching for affordable options. Can you imagine their surprise then when they find out that the prices for a procedure like an MRI can range anywhere from $400 to $4,000?

Now imagine that you are a healthcare provider.  You’re trying to bring in more patients, in a time where reimbursement cuts have really impacted your practice’s business. You want to serve the consumer-driven patient population but the road to transparency can be challenging.  When providers try to collect from self-pay patients, 70% usually goes uncollected and it cost twice as much to collect from them as it does from an insurance provider.

Save On Medical saves them the trouble of tracking down patient payments though, because on our website, patients pay online before they even have their procedure.  With the transparency market reported to grow 55% by 2016, providers are starting to jump on board.

Save On Medical is an online market place that helps patients to SHOP, COMPARE AND SAVE on their medical bills while also helping providers to ENGAGE with patients, SCHEDULE them and COLLECT payment upfront.

This dynamic has been previously unseen in the healthcare industry. There are other companies focused on improving price transparency, some focusing on online booking and scheduling and some dedicated to providing quality scores of providers. The difference between these companies and us, is that Save On Medical is able to incorporate all of the following:

  • price transparency
  • online booking
  • patient payment
  • quality scores

how to save on medical bills

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Weekend Update: Healthcare Startup Version

Tampa Florida Healthbox Startup

What have we been up to recently?

Things have been extraordinarily exciting in the world of Save On Medical as of late. We are pleased to announce that Save On Medical has been accepted into the Healthbox health tech accelerator program. In just the first week of boot camp it has become clear what a great opportunity this will be for our company.  Over the next few months we’ll be working in overdrive to improve Save On Medical for all of our users.


So what is Healthbox anyway?

Healthbox is a national program with accelerators running in a number of cities across the country, including our hometown, Tampa.  Silicon Valley, look out! Tampa could very well be the next hotbed for tech startups. There are 7 groundbreaking organizations as a part of our program and we are all working to transform the healthcare industry.


What do the minds behind Save On Medical really think about this?

Our co-founder and President, Matt Schneider commented on our involvement saying, “We are so excited about the unique partnership opportunities that will be provided to us through Healthbox. This will give us the chance to reach more patients, expand the kinds of procedures our website offers and add more providers in new cities.”


What makes Save On Medical worthy of such an honor?

Save On Medical’s unique approach to healthcare shopping is unlike any other company’s in our space. This is because while others are focusing on price transparency or quality grading or appointment booking or patient payment, Save On Medical is tackling all aspects of the care process.


What’s our goal here?

We are going to transform the way patients compare and shop for their care, making it as easy as booking a hotel online. Additionally, we are going to help care providers reach more patients and delve into the world of price and quality transparency.


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16 Questions You Should Ask About Your Imaging Center (As Told By Cats)

This week, we thought we’d give patients some assistance coming up with questions they should be asking when comparing imaging centers.  In order to make it a little bit more exciting, we thought we’d add some cats to the equation, because who doesn’t love funny internet cat photos? So take some notes, have a laugh and remember that when it comes to imaging centers… YOU HAVE A CHOICE. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

1. How do their prices compare to other imaging centers and hospitals in the area?







“Oh, you don’t have insurance? Yes, that will be one BILLION dollars please.”

2. Does the imaging center come recommended as a professional provider by other physicians in the community?









“No this tie is not a clip on. They told us in med school to always dress professionally for patients.”

3. Are they accredited by the American College of Radiology? Do the radiologists have any special certifications or are they sub-specialized?








“This is my award for giving the best CAT scans. Get it… get it?”

4. Are the techs certified and have positive reviews online?








“I’m here to help you feel at ease and answer your questions, is there anything you need right meow?”

5. Does the radiology center have up to date imaging technology?








“I know this hardware looks intimidating, but I assure you, it is the best of the best.”

6. If additional testing is necessary, can they offer other advanced imaging services at their location? (Ex: CT scans, ultrasounds, DEXA bone density scans)








“No ma’am, I am not ‘kitten’ you, we can certainly perform an MRI right after this CAT scan if your doctor requests it.”

7. Do they offer extended hours for patients who can only come in early in the morning, later in the evening or on weekends?







“Is it 5:00 yet? Oh wait, we are open until 8:00! Silly me.”

8. Do they offer driving services for those patients who are unable to drive themselves to their appointments?







“So Ms. Daisy, how has your day been so far?”

9. Is the office in a convenient and comfortable setting?







“Is this an imaging center, or a spa? I can’t tell. Ohhhh soft robes in the dressing room!”

10. Do they offer options for claustrophobic patients? Ex: Open MRI machines







“Excuse me… MRI tech lady… I think I feel a panic attack coming on.”

11. Can they squeeze you into their appointment schedule or does it take weeks to get in for tests?







“I promise just let me sneak in on my lunch break. I’ll be in and out so quick you won’t even remember me.”

12. Do they give you easy and timely access to your imaging reports?









“So what you’re going to do… is just login here. Click the mouse over there… and then, voila! Down at the bottom of the screen, see it? Your reports are right there.”

13. Are they available to your physician’s office to discuss reports and interpretations?







“Mhm, yes. What that little dark space on the MRI image means Dr. Meow Mix is…”

14. Do they make you “hang” out in the waiting room for a long time or are they known for their efficient processes?

hangin around






“Hey is it my turn yet? Seems like I’ve been hanging out here for hours. Do you at least have some magazines? Perhaps some yarn?”

15. Can you bring or request your own tunes to listen to while you’re being scanned?







“Ah, the sweet sound of Maroon 5 is much more appealing to my ears than the sound this MRI machine makes.”

16. Do they have radiologists on-site, available for consultations?

dr cat








“I’m not trying to look unamused, this is just my ‘listening face.’ I assure you.”





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How Comparing Health Costs Can Save You Money

No one wants to hear their doctor tell them they are going to need additional medical procedures, especially if they are uninsured. Talk about a day-ruiner.  When asked how much they thought a procedure like an MRI would cost them, most patients guessed around $4,000. That guess isn’t far off at some care providers, but we’re here to tell you that there are affordable options.

Uninsured radiology costsYour health is one of the most important things though, so no one wants to skimp on cost when their care is in question. The good news is that in healthcare, cost isn’t reflective of quality. Now this does complicate the consumer process, but if you know to shop around for more affordable options and take control of your care, you can save up to 80% on your procedures.

Let’s say your general practitioner recommends that you get an X-Ray of your ankle to determine if you broke it or simply sprained it. Your physician sends you next door to the hospital-owned imaging center, where they tell you your x-ray is going to cost about $200 out-of-pocket. They also inform you that there will likely be another bill headed your way a little while later for the radiologist’s “reading fee.”

When it’s all said and done, that x-ray could cost you as much as $350, just to confirm that you did in fact just sprain your ankle. Walking and talking at the same time can be hard sometimes, but who knew it could be that expensive!

Now, if you chose to shop around and compare x-ray costs at various imaging centers in your city, rather than simply going to the first suggestion for care, you would likely find an independent, outpatient imaging center with much lower rates. Why can those radiology providers offer such lower prices without sacrificing the quality of their care?

  1. They are able provide more personalized service since it’s in an outpatient setting
  2. They likely have on-site radiologists or a partnered physician group that reads for them
  3. They have more control of their costs
X-Ray Costs in Tampa, Florida

X-Ray Costs in Tampa, Florida

An x-ray of an ankle in Tampa, Florida for instance could cost up to $275 but our self-pay rates are between $75-$90 with no additional fees.  Think of all the money you could save yourself!

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