How hospitals hide pricing data from web search results: WSJ


HCA Healthcare and Universal Health Services are among hundreds of hospitals that have incorporated special coding into their websites to prevent previously confidential pricing information from appearing in web searches, according to a March 22 report. the Wall Street newspaper report.

Seven things to know:

1. Pricing information for hospital services must be disclosed under a new federal price transparency rule that came into effect on January 1, but hundreds of hospitals have embedded a code into their website that has blocked Google and other search engines display the pages with the price lists. , according to Newspaperexamining more than 3,100 sites.

2. The code prevents pages from appearing in searches, such as a hospital’s name and prices, computer experts told the. Newspaper. While the prices are still there, you have to click through multiple layers of pages to find them.

3. “It’s technically there, but good luck finding it,” said Chirag Shah, associate professor of computer science at the University of Washington. Newspaper. “It’s one thing not to optimize your site for search, it’s another to mark it as not searchable. It’s a clear indication of intentionality.”

4. Hospitals burying their pricing data include those owned by HCA Healthcare and Universal Health Services as well as the University of Pennsylvania Health System, NYU Langone Health, Beaumont Health and Novant Health, according to the Newspaper.

5. Penn Medicine, NYU Langone Health and Novant Health told the publication they used the block code to first direct patients to information they “found more useful than raw price data,” to which they included web links. UHS uses the block code to ensure consumers recognize a disclosure statement before viewing prices and makes no effort to withhold information, a hospital spokesperson told the Newspaper.

6. After the Newspaper contacted hospitals about its discovery, the search block code has been removed from sites such as HCA, Penn Medicine, Beaumont, Avera Health, Ballad Health and Northern Light Health.

7. A spokesperson for HCA told the post that the search blocker was “legacy code that we have removed”, and Avera, Ballad, Beaumont and Northern Light said the code was left on their websites. by mistake.

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