Consumers Learning To Recognize High-Value Health Care Providers
By Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.
April 4, 2012
As a savvy consumer,
you shop around and compare prices before you make a big purchase. Thanks to
the Internet, information about price, quality, and opinions from others takes just
a few clicks of your mouse.
information to help you make good decisions about the cost and quality of
health care is not as easy to find.
That may be
one reason that consumers still tend to think expensive health care providers are
better than lower cost providers, according to a new study funded by the Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality (AHRQ). This conclusion is often wrong, because higher
costs can be due to services you don't need. Or it can be from inefficient, but
not better, care.
had a silver lining, though. Consumers are less likely to select costly providers
when they have data that allows them to choose high-value health care providers.
High-value providers are those with good quality and lower costs.
This study shows
that consumers need information about both cost and quality—in one
place—to make good decisions about their care.
more than 150 public reports, also known as "report cards," rate the quality of
care from doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes. Despite the growing amount of
information, more work is needed to make it easier for consumers to identify
public reports from Federal, State, and private entities provide data that was
not available a decade ago. They can give you a good starting point to learn
about and compare health care providers in your community. They can also help
you ask questions that will help you make better
decisions about your care.
Hospital Compare is one example. It's an online resource for consumers
from the Medicare program and the Hospital Quality Alliance. It can tell you
whether a hospital provides medically sound care for heart attacks, pneumonia,
and heart failure. (Hospitals report this information on a voluntary basis, but
they get higher Medicare payments if they participate).
Compare can also tell you if Medicare patients died 30 days after they were
admitted or if they had to be re-admitted after they were released. This
information can help you learn more about how well a hospital tries to prevent
complications or helps patients once they get home or to another setting.
To get more
accurate information on cost and quality for providers and consumers, AHRQ supports
a national learning network for community quality collaboratives, which are also known as chartered
value exchanges. Formed in 2007, the network is made up of 24 collaboratives in
22 states. Most of them currently sponsor public reports on hospitals or
physicians at the local level or are planning to do so.
employer organization called The Leapfrog Group surveys more than 1,000 hospitals each year to find out
where they stand on safety and quality standards. You can check their public
report to see how hospitals compared in providing care for heart attacks,
pneumonia, and weight-loss surgery.
encouraged to see that consumers can recognize the difference between high cost
and high quality when relevant information is presented in a way that makes it
easy. But I know we need to do a better job creating public reports and other
resources that truly inform consumers about recognizing value in health care
and knowing how to find it.
Carolyn Clancy, and that's my advice on how to navigate the health care system.
Healthcare Research and Quality
Consumers Choose High-Value Health Care Providers When Given Good Cost and
Learning Network for Chartered Value Exchanges
are the Answer: Tips and Tools
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Hospital Compare Information for Consumers: Overview
Information for Consumers
Current as of April 2012
Consumers Learning To Recognize High-Value Health Care Providers. Navigating the Health Care System: Advice Columns from Dr. Carolyn Clancy, April 4, 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/cc/cc040312.htm