I have college-age kids just around the corner. It’s a scary time – not least because I was fortunate enough to get my undergraduate degree in the UK at a time when the government paid for it! Oh happy days…
In the US – and even the UK now – people pay for college out of their own pocket. But, that doesn’t always mean you get what you pay for. As I’ve researched colleges with my eldest, it’s been very hard to make a meaningful like-for-like comparison. Even using so-called college comparison websites. For example, common measure like the 6 year graduation rate are close to worthless. So I was excited to see the federal government step in and reveal its own comparison site recently. I’m sure it will attract criticism, especially from those that are heavily invested in the status quo.
But, now we need the same for healthcare. We need this for healthcare because without transparency into healthcare there will be no change. Without change, the US healthcare system is unsustainable. And that should scare healthcare providers as much as citizens. Here’s a scenario – imagine I need a total knee replacement. (I don’t, but those knees have seen a lot of soccer…). Here’s the problem:
- How do I chose a knee specialist to perform the surgery? Where’s the public data – yes, actual data – to help me as a consumer sort the best, from the good, from the mediocre? It doesn’t exist.
- Where is the public data to help me compare costs – the cost of the surgeon, and the cost of the hospital or facility for a start? It doesn’t exist.
Caleb Stowell, MD and Christina Akerman, MD are of course right when they say that better value will come from improving outcomes. But, as a consumer, I need visibility into both outcomes and costs to make wise decisions about my healthcare. Sadly, the governments Hospital Compare website doesn’t even come close to providing what we need. Without such visibility, there is no real consumer choice, no competition among providers. Without competition, healthcare costs will continue to spiral out of control. That’s bad for us, but it’s worse for our children.