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The self pay market could prove to be the key to business growth for private hospitals and private consultants in 2014.

For many self pay patients, price is a key determinant of choice...but certainly not the sole factor. Only recently (and stimulated by the Competition Commission investigation), has price transparency in the self pay market become more accepted.

So what is an uninsured patient faced with if he or she is shopping around for a private operation such as a private hip replacement?

At Intuition Communication, we have completed a detailed analysis of elective surgery prices in the UK private healthcare market. The Private Healthcare UK Self-PayMarket Study 2013 examined the prices on offer in the UK’s 200 or so private hospitals. Over 7,800 published prices were analysed.

Here is what we found when looking at the published prices for hip replacement in the UK’s private hospitals.

  • Highest price:    £14,980 (Norfolk hospital)
  • Lowest price:     £7,610 (Essex hospital)
  • Median price:    £10,340
  • Average price:   £10,385

As you can see, there’s quite an opportunity for private patients to shop around. A patient from Norfolk, could travel 100 miles from Norfolk to Essex and save over £7,000 on their hip replacement!

Why is there such a wide variation in price?

Good question!

To which there is no simple answer…

There will be regional and hospital variation due to varying costs of providing the service. Some hospitals may be incurring higher fees from private orthopaedic consultants. Some hospitals may be taking a decision to price low…or to price high in their local market.

But can the kind of price variation seen in our report be justified? Is the industry that sophisticated when it comes to pricing self pay surgery?

The reality is that there is probably not a great deal of logic. What greater price transparency will deliver (we hope) is greater awareness of comparative treatment prices both amongst private patients and within the industry. We expect more patients to be using sites such as GoPrivate and comparing prices for operations (such as a hip replacement).

It’s not just about price

Private healthcare is not all about price...it’s about relative price, quality and perception of risk. As we have seen in the NHS, there will greater transparency on outcome data and post operative infection and complications. At the moment, the private healthcare sector is dragging its feet.

Want to know more?

You can purchase a copy of the Private Healthcare UK Self-PayMarket Study 2013 for £450 from Private Healthcare UK. We talked to senior industry figures about their view of the market sector, carried out an online survey of participants in the private healthcare sector, including hospital managers, clinicians and senior decision makers, and analysed over 7,800 prices for the most common procedures.

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About the author

Keith Pollard is Executive chairman of LaingBuisson International Limited, an online publisher in the healthcare sector that operates market-leading web portals such as Private Healthcare UK and HarleyStreet.com. LaingBuisson International Limited is also active in the online medical travel sector through Treatment Abroad, International Medical Travel Journal and DoctorInternet, the Arabic medical tourism portal. View www.keithpollard.com for my full profile.


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