WHYY price check web page

Summary: We’re excited to be rolling out WHYY’s PriceCheck project in Philadelphia, with our great partners at WHYY The Pulse in Philadelphia. We’re kicking off a six-month project to build a community-created guide to health care prices in the Delaware Valley with the WHYY The Pulse journalists, on the model of our California PriceCheck project.



WHYY is the public media service serving greater Philadelphia, Delaware and South Jersey. It offers public television and public radio programming, as well as the WHYY.org and NewsWorks.org web sites. The Pulse is WHYY’s weekly public radio program telling stories at the heart of health, science and innovation. Listen for it on WHYY-FM, 90.9, at 9 a.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. Sundays, or check whyy.org/thepulse.

The Pulse logoWe’ll launch today (Friday, Feb. 27) on The Pulse, and add an appearance on WHYY’s Radio Times with the well-known host Marty Moss-Coane.

Here’s how WHYY’s PriceCheck works

We are building a community-created guide to health care prices, much as we did in California with our partners KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC public radio in Los Angeles, with funding from the Knight Foundation.

We’ve created an online form and database that make it easy for you to confidentially share what you paid for health services and in turn, make search our data and our community’s data to make apples-to-apples comparisons of prices.

We started out by collecting cash or self-pay prices from a range of Delaware Valley providers for 30 or so common procedures.

You can search the database to see those prices. The procedures: Four different MRI’s (lower back and upper back, both without and with and without contrast); two ultrasounds (abdomen and pelvis); walk-in clinic visit; women’s health (mammogram, well-woman exam, Pap smear, STD test, UTI test, IUD, abortion, Depo-Provera); men’s health (vasectomy, STD test); four common blood tests (complete blood count/CBC, comprehensive metabolic panel/CMP, cholesterol/lipids, thyroid/TSH); dental (basic dental exam, dental filling, dental cleaning and teeth whitening); other discretionary/cosmetic (Lasik and Botox); basic eye exam; cardio stress test; echocardiogram with Doppler; colonoscopy; and sleep study (three kinds).

What’s your part in this PriceCheck effort?

Your part in this effort: To help fill out the database, all you have to do is complete the simple online form to share what you paid. If you have insurance, you’ll need to have handy your explanation of benefits form. You can also work from an itemized bill from a provider.

WHYY’s PriceCheck is designed to accept data on many kinds of medical tests and procedures, but we’re especially interested in prices charged and paid for mammograms, colonoscopies, and lower-back MRIs.

When you’re done sharing what you paid or searching our database, check out all of our WHYY Price Check coverage.

A note about the form: we chose to use the medical coding system that is widely used in the health care system to identify procedures. It’s confusing, but we tried to make it easy: start typing in the name of a procedure or part of the body, and pick from the options.

We did the same thing with providers: it’s a Google Places list of providers. The reason we chose that is to make sure we can give mapping coordinates and have reasonably uniform place names. (The first time we did this, that was a free-form box, and it was a mess: NYU, New York University Hospital, NYY Tisch, NYO Langone, yikes.)

Our California PriceCheck and the New York pilot

Here’s the page from one of our California partners: it’s an interactive widget embedded on their sites. To best see how it works, go to the page and test the “share” function, then search — easiest to see, in “find prices,” if you search on MRI of the lower back, CPT code 72148, within 100 miles of 94103.

Also, here’s my Harvard Business Review piece about us and the project.

And here’s our partner’s piece from JAMA Internal Medicine about the project, and here’s the approving editor’s note from JAMA Internal Medicine.

JAMA called us “bold” and called for more of the same! Wahooo!

We wrote a number of blog posts about wildly varying prices, and went on the radio and talked about them. We also were written about many places. We collected the work of the three partners — by us and about us — on this Tumblr.

Before the California PriceCheck launched, we did a pilot WNYC public radio in New York City to launch similar crowdsourcing projects in those regions. In New York, the partners asked people for the prices of mammograms, and almost 400 people responded over the course of just two weeks. Here’s a project launch page and here’s one of the blog posts on Clearhealthcosts about the experience, with links to other posts. The information was wildly interesting – take a look.

So: More of the same. Here you go!

Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...