Changing The Way Doctors Do Business

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If you ask most patients how much their doctor visit costs, it's a good bet they won't know until the bill comes in the mail.

Now the largest state's largest private physicians practice, Southern California-based HealthCare Partners Medical Group, is changing the way doctors do business by listing on its Web site the prices of 58 of the most common procedures, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker.

Listings include a chest X-ray for $61, a flu shot for $15, and a physical exam for $100 to $120.

"An informed patient becomes an empowered consumer," said Dr. Rob Blackman, a partner in the group.

They call it "transparency in pricing."

"I think the patients need to know that medicine is a business, and it does cost, and to the extent they know what it costs, they can work with their doctor to minimize costs and yet maximize quality of care," said Blackman.

"For once we are not being kept clueless," said patient Maisha Pajardo.

Pajardo says patients can comparison shop. "I think it's great when the consumer has all the information up front, especially when they are paying for their own bills and their own health care," she said.

Which is happening more and more, either because patients have no insurance, or employers are pushing medical costs off on them with higher deductibles and co-payments.

"If you know what the price is, then you can plan for that in your budget," said patient Sandy Britton.

In the past, doctors considered listing prices crass commercialism, until big pharmacy chains, even Target, started offering routine medical services and listing flu shot prices right along with toothpaste and T-shirts.

Still, some doctors say it's a good idea but ...

"If patients begin to focus just on price, then they may forego certain preventative services or little problems that might become big problems and that in the long run may drive up the cost of health care," said Dr. Rick Kellerman, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The California doctors see price listing as a booster shot for an ailing medical system, and predict doctors around the country will soon agree that giving patients the cure and the cost is the right prescription.