How Much is That? Getting to the Bottom of Healthcare Cost

A seven-minute video from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q) program explores the importance of transparency in healthcare cost and the need for data on the real costs of healthcare services. robert wood johnson foundation, aligning forces for quality, healthcare cost, data, johnson & johnson, johnson new brunswick foundation, epatient, transparencyThe video provides three perspectives on the need for healthcare cost data, including what’s at stake for patients, providers, and employers; and how to nurture a cost-transparent system that empowers all players to make better decisions.

In his earliest days as a philanthropist—although he refused to describe himself as such—Johnson worked hard to assist Johnson & Johnson employees, and other members of the local community to ride out the storm of the Great Depression. Early in the Depression, Johnson gave employees a five-percent hardship bonus. He often reached into his own pocket to help workers who had fallen on hard times.

In late 1936, he created the Johnson New Brunswick Foundation with 12,000 shares of company stock—worth about $5.4 million today. His aim was simple: to help people who were down on their luck. Many applied; few were denied.

Thanks to ePatient Dave deBronkart, who is another powerful voice in patient engagement and healthcare cost transparency, I now know that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – one of the most respected research foundations in healthcare – also thinks that asking “how much is that?” is a critically important question in healthcare.

What’s the bottom line of healthcare cost transparency?

robert wood johnson foundation, aligning forces for quality, healthcare cost, data, johnson & johnson, johnson new brunswick foundation, epatient, transparencyHere’s a video they posted a year ago. Still fresh today. Sing it with me: how much IS that? And start using the just-Symplur-registered Twitter hashtag #howmuchisthat to spread the word so we can get to the bottom of healthcare cost once and for all.

About Casey Quinlan

Casey Quinlan gave herself the title “Mighty Mouth” on the theory that if you can’t hide it, flaunt it.
One of the things she flaunts regularly is her status as an e-patient and cancer warrior. As Casey likes to put it, “I’ve gone beyond “pink” – I’ve gone plaid!”
After getting a breast cancer diagnosis just days before Christmas in 2007, she wrote the Amazon best seller Cancer for Christmas: Making the Most of a Daunting Gift, which tells her story of managing medical treatment and exhorts everyone to become their own patient advocate.
She’s one of the Disruptive Women in Health Care, an online community of women dedicated to serving as a platform for provocative ideas, thoughts, and solutions in health and medicine.
She's is a former network news field producer who helped cover breaking news across the globe for over two decades, learning all about what makes a great story. She talked her way out of police custody in Saudi Arabia, and did standup comedy in New York for several years – she’s fearless.
Through her company Mighty Casey Media, she speaks to audiences on topics ranging from how healthcare can build healthier communities by using social media to how businesses can create content that drives brand loyalty and sales.

  • Lenore Balsam

    Get the government nad other third parties out of healthcare and let market forces operate to reduce the cost of healthcare.

    • Or… get all market forces out of healthcare and let governments regulate and provide it all.

      I can imagine, and get worried about, there’s parts of healthcare that are ‘anti-profitable’. Who’s going to solve that? And other areas might be, e.g. easy to enter, to step into as a quasi-expert. Who’s gonna tell me, the patient, whether I’m dealing with a money maker over expert, or an expert over money maker?

      Over here in The Netherlands, our systems, and what we’re used to, are probably quite different from yours and what you’re used to. But what I’ve seen over here, is that commercializing and privatising are very very tricky. We’ve seen it in transport and utilities. Energy and stuff. And partially in healthcare. Nasty thing over here: not the doctors, not even their managers, neither the government is in control. Over here it’s the health insurance companies who have the most power. And that is just as desirable as let’s say handing power over to the pharmaceutical giants.

      Clear thing: this is a very difficult, and heavy discussion. I’m very curious about what the numbers could tell us. An have those costs explored and uncovered, and tell us how the system should best operate, I guess.

  • I think you both have great points, Lenore and Remco, and thanks for the comments. In the US, healthcare costs are overly complex. We’ve got a billing code for just about everything you can imagine. One of the first people you’ll see at your bedside, when you’re admitted to a hospital is a financial planner. Sure, the doctors and nurses make their rounds, and stop by to take a look at you, but no decisions are made until the financial planner understands who’s paying, what they’re paying for and how they’re paying. Some procedures can’t be performed, because an insurance company doesn’t cover it. They may cover some alternative treatment, instead. Healthcare becomes a negotiation between hospital administration and insurance companies, leaving the doctors, and especially the patients, waiting on the sidelines.