Advancing Health Care Transparency: A National Inventory of Tools to Guide State Policy

Driving healthcare transparency in New York

Funded by the New York State Health Foundation and working with HonestHealth, we examined an inventory of more than 230 health care transparency tools from across the nation to determine best practices and essential features—and provided a set of recommendations to New York State.


Online healthcare transparency tools can be important decision-support tools, but they’re relatively new and vary widely in terms of the information they contain and how they display it. New York State wanted a complete picture of existing tools and their usefulness to consumers, along with a set of tailored recommendations.

  • Evaluation
  • Data Collection and Analysis
  • Dissemination

Supporting healthcare decision-making

Given the rising costs of healthcare insurance and services, consumers are being tasked to make more decisions about the coverage and care they want, need, and can ultimately afford—with the hope that it’s also of high quality. Healthcare transparency websites and other tools aid consumers in making these decisions. And state-developed tools are readily available to everyone, free of charge—allowing consumers, providers, employers, insurers, researchers and policymakers alike to view the data and push for quality and cost improvement.

Evaluating existing transparency tools

New York State has been investing in important resources to ensure that residents have access to timely and meaningful information to make decisions about their health. Among others, these tools include an all-payer database (APD), Provider Network Data System, and a recently launched NYS Health Connector, which presents sample cost and volume data from the APD.

As part of this broader effort, the state commissioned a study of existing healthcare transparency tools. HonestHealth developed an inventory of over 230 tools across four categories—Physicians, Hospitals, Prescription Drug Pricing, and Buying Health Insurance—and evaluated specific features for each, ranging from 20 features related to drug pricing information to 63 features for hospital information.

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The study found 18 national tools providing hospital cost or quality information and 115 state-specific tools across 45 states.
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The study explored usefulness and level of accessibility for consumers for a variety of features across the four categories.

Sharing findings and devising next steps

Using the inventory, HSRI prepared a brief, Advancing Health Care Transparency: A National Inventory of Tools to Guide State Policy. In addition to summarizing the results of the study, HSRI provided recommendations and next steps for the State to consider as it looked to leverage its APD, enhance existing tools, and develop additional tools that are actionable, meaningful, and impactful for consumers and others.

As detailed in the brief, key best practices for creating a healthcare transparency tool include focusing on:

  • Ease of use and innovative features that promote use. Tools should adhere to best practices for consumer-focused user interface designs.
  • Information tailored to consumers. Where possible, cost estimates should be specific to an individual’s situation, including insurance carrier and plan.
  • Provider-specific information. Consumers look for information about individual physicians, including cost, quality, credentials, demographics, expertise, and hospital affiliations.
  • Healthcare value. By presenting cost and quality information side by side, you can guide consumers away from the common misconception that high prices indicate high-quality care.
    • Cost data should help consumers determine an estimated total price paid and, where possible, the amount they can expect to pay out of pocket.
    • Quality data should be based on methodologically sound measures that consumers care about, such as patient-centeredness, effectiveness, and safety of medical procedures.

New York State Health Foundation

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