Three take-aways from Nancy Guinto’s transparency testimony to the US Senate HELP Committee

Nancy Guinto, Executive Director of the Washington Health Alliance (WHA), testified before the US Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee last week about how price transparency initiatives can increase value in health care. The hearing was fourth in a series of five HELP committee hearings to examine health care cost reduction industry wide. Previous hearings have considered understanding the cost of health care in America, eliminating excess spending, while improving quality and value , and decreasing administrative spending.

The Ranking Democrat on the HELP Committee, Washington Sen. Patty Murray, opened by praising the WHA and its work in the state.

“The Alliance has been an incredible advocate for quality and value in healthcare and has taken on very impressive projects to increase transparency and arm our patients, employers and health care providers across our state with information that they can use to provide patients care. Your work shows exactly why transparency is such an important tool for patients, providers and governments who are looking to lower health care costs and increase value, efficiency and quality.”

Guinto’s testimony spoke to the value and challenges of price transparency as a tool to guide consumers to more cost effective, value-based heath care choices. She highlighted how the alliance production of reports analyzing cost and quality data and engagement with stakeholders about possible solutions to address concerns. She explained,

“Data alone does not change behavior, transforming data to action requires stakeholder involvement and commitment and accountability. And, she added, “Health care transparency must include all aspects of value, including cost, quality and patient experience.”

The testimony delivered three key take-aways:

  • Information (data) drives better choices – Without information, consumers are often in the dark about care decisions and powerless to push the market for better value in care.
  • Data alone does not change behavior – To be effective, data must be accessible, clear and understandable, and actionable. This takes active participation by stakeholders to help process or “translate” data into information consumers can use.
  • Education and navigation resources are a critical – Influencing better choices takes stakeholder commitment and coordination to move data into action. Summarizing data and measuring value is technically challenging and can be difficult to communicate effectively to consumers.  Often the best received educators are physicians and other clinicians with existing relationships with patients.

 

After presenting several examples of collaborations in Washington state resulting in cost saving and quality improvement, Guinto left the committee with three recommendations moving forward:

  • Congress should create incentives to align stakeholder interests in leveraging data to improve care value. Congress should look across public and private sectors to coordinate efforts to increase transparency.
  • Congress should support federal agency efforts to increase transparency by promoting initiatives that tie cost, quality, and value together and by making access to data less burdensome.
  • Congress should leverage existing networks that promote transparency, like regional health improvement collaborative, that already have the trust and support of local stakeholders and who are already working to make care improvements.

The committee was scheduled to meet for its last hearing on improving affordability through innovation on September 27th, but that meeting was postponed due the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. The information presented is expected to inform the committee’s recommendations for future legislation regarding health care costs and consumer protection.