Under a new federal rule, hospitals will soon be required to post a list of their standard patient charges online.

The move is meant to increase price transparency and encourage patients to become better-educated decision makers when it comes to their own care, according to Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Hospitals are already required to have a public list of their standard charges, but the latest change would make hospitals put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers.

It may still prove to be confusing to consumers, since standard rates are like list prices and don’t reflect what insurers and government programs pay.

One health policy expert told The Washington Post that while posting prices online is useful, it's not as significant as insurance companies helping patients understand what hospital charges they would need to pay themselves.

The new rule takes effect Jan. 1.

Hospitals will be required to update the information annually or "more often as appropriate," according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.