It’s the Everest of health care.

The nexus of better patient care and lower financial costs – that’s a striking, unintended finding from a recent cost-transparency pilot that saved nearly $464,000 in the first six weeks at one hospital.

We set out to answer one critical question. If physicians see all the information about treatment costs and patient care in one place, will they make decisions that lower costs? This could include switching to a generic alternative, or not duplicating a lab test with normal results.

Yes. That resounding answer surfaced immediately after the Houston Methodist Sugar Land pilot began in August. Costs of care dropped significantly. The second, unexpected benefit − it improves patient care.

“This is a game-changer,” said Chris Siebenaler, regional senior vice president, Houston Methodist Clear Lake and Baytown Hospitals, and HMSL chief executive officer.

Clinical effectiveness tool. $464,000 savings in six weeks.

Physicians can make the best treatment decisions when they see real-time data that marries clinical efficacy and cost. Patients want to know they’re receiving the best treatment, absent unnecessary expenses.

The IllumiCare Smart Ribbon provides that.

“This new technology clearly reveals what’s going on with a particular patient,” Siebenaler said. “This enhanced visibility enables our physicians to provide the best diagnosis and treatment options for our patients, at the lowest costs.”

How it works.

Physician decisions drive hospital costs. This includes how many days you’re in the hospital, what diagnostic tests you get, which medications you need.

Without Smart Ribbon, physicians need to click through various tabs in Epic to find this specific information, and it doesn’t show associated costs.

“I may not see everything,” said Dr. Nicholas Desai, chief medical information officer. “I don’t really know the cost of everything. Maybe there’s a lower cost medication that’s equally effective. If my colleague ordered an MRI yesterday, do I need to order one today?”

Smart Ribbon compiles patient-specific costs and risk data for three primary areas – medications, laboratory tests and imaging orders. It also links to reference material for the patient. This real-time visibility helps physicians balance clinical efficacy with the safest, most cost-effective treatments.

“Smart Ribbon displays average cost of care at discharge and also cost ranges across organizations,” Desai said. “It compares community hospitals and academic medical centers with their peers. We can see the actual average cost of care at discharge.”

Results that matter.

Smart Ribbon shows our physicians information they need to make better decisions. They can see the details and adapt treatment decisions to improve patient care and save money.

“Our physicians find it very useful,” Siebenaler said. “It’s not just a tool for cost transparency. It also shows the benefits of aggregating information for providers. This allows them to leverage that information to make the best clinical decisions.”

Better patient care, combined with significantly lower health care costs. That’s an incredible joint outcome of a single-intent pilot.