Can winning re-designs help clear up maddening confusion of hospital bills?
After partnering with hospital systems, medical finance specialists, and AARP, the advocacy group for Americans 50 and older, Uncle Sam has chosen its top competitors who tried to answer the vexing question: Can anyone do anything to fix the infuriating confusion caused by the typical hospital bill?
Sure, it’s a little gimmicky. A $5,000 prize these days doesn’t seem all that grand. But a little credit is due to the intent and participants in the federal Health and Human Services design contest, “A bill you can understand.”
Research shows that 61 percent of recipients can’t make heads nor tails of the bills they get from their hospitals, doctors, and for other medical services. To add to the morass, insurers and care providers bury patients in numbers and notices. They say they feel besieged by statements of benefits, multiple invoices, and charges from doctors or specialists they don’t even remember. The result may be payment paralysis, with some patient-consumers ignoring sums they owe−creating all kinds of added headaches for themselves; some may create health risks for themselves because they stop going to hospitals or medical caregivers that confuse them.
A blue-chip panel of experts judged 84 entries and awarded the top prizes to: designers from the nationwide medical imaging company RadNet for creating the easiest hospital bill to understand; and Sequence, a San Francisco branding agency, for its “transformational” approach to hospital bills.
The full details of these winning presentations−besides the sample video and bill appearing with this post−are available at the HHS site for the contest, along with information on other honored submissions. The Sequence entry, aiming for a decidedly more “out of the box” approach, looks as if it would have high appeal to younger, tech-savvy patients who also may be more familiar with demand-pricing and market options as seen in hot start-ups like the transportation services Uber or Lyft.
It will be fascinating to see how the industry participants, who have pledged to do so, adapt and adopt the billing innovations proposed in this contest. I know from representing clients who have been harmed and are seeking justice through lawsuits in the civil justice system that their challenges often are compounded by confounding hospital bills and other charges from providers of medical services. Anything that helps clean up this mess has to be welcomed.