Healthcare costs concern everyone. Our not-for-profit network has made significant progress reducing costs and making our high-quality services more affordable.
Modernized Process Increases Bill Clarity
People rank bills as among the most confusing and frustrating parts of healthcare. In 2016, we simplified and modernized our billing process. We made our patient statements easier to understand by using straightforward descriptions without jargon. We also removed unnecessary procedure codes that cluttered the paperwork and caused confusion. We also enabled online bill pay and eliminated duplicate billing systems to improve efficiency and save money.
Posting, Standardizing Charges Makes Estimating Costs Easier for Patients
We wanted to provide a clear, helpful way for people to understand their healthcare options and related costs. So we published our charges for the 225 services most frequently used by patients at our physician organizations (medical foundations). We also launched an online healthcare cost estimator tool, which provides people another way to estimate costs for frequently used doctor and outpatient services, such as office visits, lab tests or X-rays.
Also in 2016, we began standardizing what we charge for nearly 300 frequently used hospital services. We’ve also eliminated charges for many basic patient care items and services, such as bedside supplies, oxygen and pulse oximetry. We’ve reduced or eliminated charges for over-the-counter medications provided to patients in the hospital and lowered charges for certain prescription medications provided to our hospitalized patients.
Decreasing Variation Increases Quality, Improves Safety and Reduces Costs
Throughout Sutter Health, our doctors and care providers identify areas of variation and create standards to help eliminate redundant tests and unnecessary procedures to improve the quality, cost and safety of care we provide to our patients. In addition to metrics that track quality and affordability, Sutter Health uses data from our electronic health record to track how the decisions our providers make impact patients’ experiences. Overall, we’ve worked with more than 3,000 clinicians, supported 1 million patients and saved $66 million with this work since 2010.
Variation reduction projects helped patients avoid unnecessary tests and treatments, such as:
Reduction in patients receiving over 28 tablets for first-time opioid prescription
Decrease in the ordering of repeat lab tests at three hospitals
Streamlined Process Increases Savings
Our patients and communities rightfully expect our administrative and business teams to work as efficiently as possible. We realized more than $432 million in annual benefits in 2016 through our streamlined and standardized business support office.