onsumers who search online for prices of common medical procedures may be disappointed by what they find, a U.S. study suggests.
Researchers used the search engines Google and Bing to check the cost of common services like cholesterol tests, hip replacements and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in 8 cities: New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Seattle; Baltimore, Maryland; Charlotte, North Carolina; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Tallahassee, Florida.
They did a simple search, such as “cost of hip replacement in Los Angeles,” swapping in different medical services and cities each time, to see how often the results would lead consumers to a price.
Of 1,346 websites in the search results that weren’t advertisements, only 234, or 17 percent, provided geographically relevant price information, the study found.
Cost isn’t necessarily going to be the main factor driving patients’ decisions about health care, said Dr. Karandeep Singh, a researcher at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who wasn’t involved in the study. Often, patients will decide where to go for care based on which providers are in-network with their insurance, and this might not always include the highest-quality or most affordable providers, Singh said.
“Unfortunately, cost information continues to remain a black box,” Singh said.