Want More Patients? Raise Your Prices.

It turns out patients aren't very good consumers when it comes to healthcare. Among other reasons, they tend to assume high prices mean higher quality.

When I was early in practice, I wanted to shift the emphasis of my clinical activity to head and neck oncology and facial plastic and reconstructive surgery and away from general otolaryngology. So, in an attempt to lessen the number of consultations for sore throats and recurrent tonsillitis, I raised my prices and told patients that I generally charge more than others who do the same operation. This was a long time ago, and of course, dynamics of charging and reimbursement were different. Guess what happened? I got busier doing tonsillectomies. They figured if I charged more, I must be better. Of course, my complication rate was the same as everyone else's.

It turns out I was not alone and a recent study helps to understand why. The results indicate that patients erroneously use price as a proxy for quality. It further supports the notion that patients are terrible consumers. Not only do they use price as a surrogate marker for quality of care, they use service and experience too. The two are likewise frequently unrelated.

Here are 10 ways we can help to make patient/customers better judges of not just quality of care, but of the value of the care.

There are several ways to price your services. Unfortunately, as we all know, in sick care, what you charge has little or nothing to do with what you get paid.

So now, why are my facelift prices so high? Because I'm just better, of course.

Several entrepreneurs have created companies that provide patients with pricing information comparing one surgeon with another for a given operation. Given the results of how patients judge quality, they might be surprised by the results and why the dogs won't eat the food.