Dr. Nilay Kumar comments on study of consumers struggles with healthcare price transparency

typing at computer
Dr. Nilay Kumar

Consumers who search online for prices of common medical procedures may be disappointed by what they find, a recent study by researchers at Duke University suggests.

Nilay Kumar, MD, clinical assistant professor, Hospital Medicine, commented on the study investigating online availability of pricing for common medical procedures. 

The researchers used search engines to test the costs of common services like cholesterol tests, hip replacements, and magnetic resonance imaging scans in eight US cities. (Madison, Wisconsin was not included in the study.) 

Only 17 percent of the 1,346 non-advertisement websites in the search results provided geographically relevant price information. 

“Unfortunately, while pricing information online can give one a rough estimate of the variation in pricing and higher versus lower pricing at different centers, they usually do not give an accurate estimate of actual costs,” said Dr. Kumar, who was not involved in the study. 

“Patients should directly check with their insurers and providers regarding pricing for services.”


Photo credit: Jeff Miller/UW-Madison