Just because (Most) hospitals are publishing charges does not mean prices are more transparent

Cody Lendon Mullens*, J. Andres Hernandez, Evan D. Anderson, Lindsay Allen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently mandated that all hospitals publish their charge description masters (CDMs) online, in a machine-readable format, by January 1, 2019. In addition, CMS recommended that CDM data be made available in a manner that was consumer friendly and accessible to patients. Objective: This study aimed to (1) examine all hospitals across the state of Pennsylvania to understand policy compliance and (2) use established metrics to measure accessibility and consumer friendliness of posted CDM data. Methods: A cross-sectional analysis was conducted to quantify hospital website compliance with the recent CMS policies requiring hospitals to publish their CDM. Data were collected from all Pennsylvania hospital websites. Consumer friendliness was assessed based on searchability, number of website clicks to data, and supplemental educational materials accompanying CDMs such as videos or text. Results: Most hospitals (189/234, 80.1%) were compliant, but significant variation in data presentation was observed. The mean number of website clicks to the CDM was 3.7 (SD 1.3; range: 1-8). A total of 23.1% of compliant hospitals provided no supplemental educational material with their CDM. Conclusions: Although disclosure of charges has improved, the data may not be sufficient to meaningfully influence patient decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere14436
JournalJMIR Medical Informatics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Delivery of health care
  • Health care costs
  • Health policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Health Information Management


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