How Consumers Are Choosing Their Health Care Providers
- by Jeff Voigt
There is a considerable amount of information available which consumers can use in choosing their health care provider. A well-known source being developed by Medicare is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (or HCAHPS). Other sources include Healthgrades and consumer review websites such as Yelp. The goal of each of these sources is to provide consumers with information they need to make more informed decisions, including information about the provider’s experience, patient satisfaction, and hospital quality. So are these sources being used? A panel of experts was convened on May 31, 2016 for a segment on The Business of Healthcare as part of Wharton’s Business Radio on SiriusXM. Interestingly, the panel’s (Kristin Karman, PhD; Steve Findlay, Consumer Reports; Thomas Tsai, MD, Harvard; and Benjamin Ranard, MD, University of Pennsylvania) opinion was that most choices are being made by word of mouth and by who you know – despite this plethora of information available. Recent publications also confirm this stating, “The patient experience with the health care system, judging is quality and reporting has met with a remarkable amount of resistance[i].” So why is this?
Factors identified as making this information less understandable/digestible include lack of consumer friendliness, not being up-to-date (e.g. HCAHPS), and the variability in report cards vis-à-vis content, complexity, presentation of the information and methods used in collecting the data.
Interestingly, several noteworthy observations were made by the panelists. Among them that institutions and providers with the highest patient satisfaction scores had better outcomes (lower readmission rates, lower mortality, higher process of care measures) [Tsai]; evidence that care is working demonstrates higher quality of care but personal choice and clinical judgement could trump this in consumer’s choosing one provider over another [Carman]; qualitative vs. quantitative reporting of information in many instances can sway a consumer (i.e. use of Yelp evaluations) [Ranard]; and simplifying the data to make it more user friendly and digestible (e.g. report cards) [Findlay].
So what is next for these data capturing sources? The panel thought a few more years are needed to collect more data – making it more reliable by increasing the sample sizes of responses. Additionally, the data needed to be in real time (vs. being old info). Lastly, simplicity in conveying the data is key and ensuring it is local in nature. This is a tall order considering how complex the healthcare system is. For now, it seems that word of mouth may be the best way to determine where you will receive your care.
[i] Chatterjee P, Tsai TC, Jha AK. Delivering value by focusing on patient experience. Am Jrl Manag Care. 2015;21(10):735-737