Our goal was to provide Alliance for Medical Pricing Transparency (AMPT) with an online pricing comparison tool, to help consumers compare prices for common medical procedures across hospitals.
The Alliance for Medical Pricing Transparency (AMPT) is a group of medical professionals determined to increase access to healthcare, by helping consumers compare prices for common medical procedures across hospitals. Our goal was to provide them with an online pricing comparison tool (pricing tool), to prove the feasibility of their endeavor.
The pricing tool requirements were simple. A user would enter their zip code and a procedure to access a list of prices for that procedure at nearby hospitals. The first version of the tool would just have a few hospitals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and about one hundred procedures.
Like most web applications, the pricing tool consisted of three main parts: a front-end, a back-end, and a data layer. In their research, our client noticed that a website very similar to what they wanted already existed. The key difference was that the existing website didn’t contain prices for the area we were interested in: Oklahoma. We partnered with the client to connect with the developer of the existing website. We found that it would be far more cost-efficient to purchase the code from the existing website’s developer rather than create it from scratch. With the code we had purchased, 90% of the front-end and back-end development was done. Our primary task now was to build the data layer.
Handling the data was a key challenge in this project. The pricing data that we received from the hospitals was poor in quality. Often, prices were missing or contradicted the prices posted on the hospital’s website. We pulled the files from the hospitals, transformed them into a consistent format, and loaded them into a database. We created Python scripts for each hospital to automate the transformation of the data. We used an AWS Redshift database, for its reliability, cost, and scalability.
After ingesting the hospital data files, we found many of the procedures were still missing prices. Some of these prices could be found online, so the client volunteered to look them up. We provided the client with a form to fill in the prices. Afterward, we ingested the prices from the form into the database.
With the pricing data in place, were-pointed the purchased back-end code to our database, and “re-skinned” the front-end. We hosted the application on a password-protected AWS server. All resources used by the app are under a single AWS tenant, whose ownership can be easily transferred to the client.
While it was no easy task, we stood up a useful, robust, and easy to maintain web application within a few months. With this application, anyone can compare real prices across the four main Tulsa hospitals for common procedures. We helped AMPT take their first solid step in transforming medical pricing transparency in America.
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