By Ana English, CIVHC President and CEO

The Dollars and Sense blog series is about sharing perspectives and information that change the conversation around lowering costs in health care.

In August, I had the honor to participate in a panel about health care transparency hosted by Colorado Healthcare Strategy and Management (CHSM). Not surprisingly, all of the panelists, myself included, believe in the power of transparency. However, what became clear during the discussion was that not all transparency is created equally, and the information and ways we make it available can and must differ depending on who is using it and for what purpose.

Transparency has gained steam as a buzzword in recent years, with organizations across the health care system, consumers, and communities demanding to understand what things cost and why in order to find solutions. But, does everyone mean the same thing when they say they want transparency in health care? And is the same information going to be valuable to everyone? What information will most effectively drive change?

These are questions we ask ourselves at CIVHC on a daily basis. We strive to make sure that the data we supply provides context and is inclusive of the information that will be most impactful and actionable. After all, spreadsheets full of numbers won’t change the world unless the person or people looking change behavior or make different decisions based on the information. And what is meaningful to a consumer may not be helpful to a provider – just as what is meaningful to a provider may not be helpful to a policy maker or payer.

During the panel, it became apparent that, in order to truly bend the cost curve, we need to provide transparent information in a number of different ways to a number of different stakeholders:

1. At the grassroots level, we need to equip patients with public price and quality information and educate them to make smart purchasing decisions.

2. At the policy level, legislators and policy makers need to be armed with objective, non-partisan information that uses data, not politics, to make system-level changes that benefit patients and communities.

3. Between the two above, we need to equip providers, payers and employer purchasers with data specific to their populations and those of their peers to ensure care being purchased and provided is evidence-based, patient-centered, outcome-focused and cost-effective.

There isn’t one transparency effort or single piece of data alone that can solve our health care cost conundrum. We must start looking at the data specific to our piece of the puzzle for solutions, and then talk to each other to identify solutions we can all get behind for the common good. In this collective process, we must be sensitive to the fact that reducing cost for one stakeholder decreases another stakeholder’s profit, and each of us will likely have to give something up to make a positive shift.

We, as a country and as a state, deserve a better approach than the one we have today. And I think we’ve reached a point where enough of us are disappointed, frustrated and angry at what we’ve created and are ready for action. To become part of the conversation, join us November 13th at History Colorado for an all day event, Dollars & Sense: Lowering Health Care Costs and Increasing Transparency, where we will share new transparent data and views from leaders across the health care spectrum on how collectively, we can change course.