El Camino Hospital last week introduced an online price-estimator tool that enables potential patients to research the costs of more than 80 procedures and services.
Patients can input their insurance information – or choose the uninsured option – and receive an estimate for the procedure in return. According to Chief Financial Officer Iftikhar Hussain, El Camino is the first hospital on the West Coast to implement such a system.
“Most hospitals take historical costs from their prior experience and they put those out there as a general guide,” he said. “What this tool does is a little different. It actually takes your insurance information and gives you a quote. … It’s a lot more accurate.”
Prior to the price estimator’s launch, patients had to call the hospital to request an estimate for a procedure. Hussain said the tool makes it more of a self-service model.
The three-step process includes entering insurance information, selecting a category and selecting a procedure. In less than a minute, a potential uninsured patient could find that an MRI brain scan without contrast costs an estimated $1,801.12.
Anne McLeod, senior vice president for health policy and innovation at the California Hospital Association, called El Camino’s new tool “next line.” However, she added that hospitals giving patients price estimates isn’t exactly a new concept.
“There’s a law that’s been in effect for a decade,” said McLeod, referring to legislation that falls under California’s Health and Safety Code, Section 1339.585. “If … a person with insurance knows they are going to have a surgery, they can ask for an estimate and the hospital has to give them an estimate with the best guess.”
As for other uses for the price estimator, Hussain said hospital administrators plan to expand the tool to possibly include surgeries.
“The limiting factor is to make sure the procedure is one that the patient understands,” he said. “We’ll go through our history to see if we can make others available, too. So some simple surgeries we could probably put in there.”
Both the Mountain View and Los Gatos branches of the hospital plan to use the price estimator.
To access the price estimator and for more information, visit https://www.elcaminohospital.org/priceestimator.