For The Record with Tabatha Erck, Senior Vice President, Amplifon – Medical Alley Association

For The Record with Tabatha Erck, Senior Vice President, Amplifon

Tabatha is responsible for leading the Amplifon Hearing Health Care team, including Provider Relations, Credentialing, Billing, Call Center, Operations, Sales, Marketing, and Account Management.

Previously, Tabatha served as Chief Executive Officer for Fulcrum Health, Inc, and was most recently Vice President, Shared Services Operations, for Superior HealthPlan, a managed health-care company. Her career has also included leadership roles at HealthPartners, Vivius, Medica, and LifeScan. Tabatha has led organizational transformations in her past organizations and has an impressive track record of growing businesses, people, and team spirit.

A native of Minnesota, Tabatha received a bachelor’s in management and marketing from San Jose State University. She obtained a master’s degree in health care administration from the University of San Francisco and recently completed her doctorate in leadership and health care public policy at the University of St. Thomas.

How do you define price transparency?

The simplest definition of price transparency is the ability for people to see the price of goods and services prior to their purchase. People expect to have on-demand access to data that helps them make informed decisions about what to buy, where to buy, who to buy from, and how much to pay. This is especially true for sizeable purchases, like cars, homes, and healthcare. Over the last five years, we have seen the automobile and real estate industries transform to make pricing more transparent. Companies like TrueCar and Zillow have built businesses whose purpose is to empower people with information and a vetted network of professionals to make the buying experience simple and fair. The healthcare industry is making strides when it comes to price transparency, like the all-payer claims databases (APCDs), which collect healthcare price and quality information. However, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to aggregating this information and making it useful to consumers.

What problem does price transparency address most directly?

Price transparency plays a pivotal role in transforming the way consumers manage their health and interact with the healthcare system. Today, there is huge asymmetry in the information that people can access about healthcare goods and services. As buyers, we don’t have access to the same pricing information that insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare professionals do. By equalizing the exchange of pricing information, we shift the power dynamic and put it back in the hands of the consumer. Armed with the right information, consumers now have a guide to help establish a baseline of trust and agree on the parameters of a “fair deal.” The result: greater engagement and accountability, improved outcomes, and lower costs.

Does price transparency help usher in value-based care or does it function independently?

There is a strong connection between price transparency and value-based care. Consumers are not the only ones who need price transparency—clinicians often don’t know the cost of the medical services they provide. With value-based care, clinicians are paid based on health outcomes and therefore take on more financial risk in their practice. This risk is forcing them to ask more questions about the costs associated with different tests, medications, or services like home care.

Can healthcare ever be fully price transparent?

Why not? Every other U.S. industry has figured out how to make pricing transparent. For healthcare, it is more a matter of how we do it that will make a difference. Making accurate cost information readily available is not enough. We need to make it easier for people to understand the complexities of healthcare pricing. One of the ways Amplifon is doing this is by working closely with our hearing provider network to give customers a detailed estimate that includes his/her insurance benefit, co-pay/co-insurance, deductible, and out-of-pocket costs prior to their hearing aid purchase. Amplifon’s providers walk the customer through the estimate to ensure they understand the cost prior to purchase.

Who benefits most from transparent pricing? For whom will it be most disruptive?

Every stakeholder in healthcare will benefit from transparent price, especially consumers. It’s a significant contributing factor when it comes to lowering out-of-pocket costs and improving health outcomes. It also plays a role in building consumer trust with providers, hospitals, insurance companies, and other healthcare organizations.

Describe your vision for an effective price transparency solution?

I would design a transparency solution that helps people feel secure and confident navigating the healthcare system and making decisions about their health. It would be a one-stop shop or single source of truth with multiple types of information, including pricing, outcomes data, customer reviews and experience/satisfaction survey results, care pathways based on clinical guidelines, expert second opinions, and my insurance plan coverage details. I also like the idea of a “people like me” feature, that uses my information – geographic, demographic, psychographic, behavioral, medical history for me and my family – to provide recommendations for how to address or treat health issues.

Leading the Conversation

Does Price Transparency Matter?

Healthcare is routinely criticized for a lack of price transparency. This criticism seems to imply that price transparency would make healthcare better: better outcomes, lower prices, and overall better value. Is that true?

In the second of a two-part series, “Leading the Conversation: Does Price Transparency Matter?” will challenge this criticism and engage health leaders in uncovering the challenges to improving outcomes, lowering costs, and delivering value in a price-conscience world.

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