Public Information as Part of a Multi-Pronged Strategy

The proliferation of health care report cards over the past 10 to 15 years is a direct response to widespread and growing concerns about the quality of care. When quality problems arise in other industries (such as concerns about automobile safety), the solution typically involves a multitude of strategies, including regulatory reforms, financial incentives, independent oversight, and consumer education. While this last tactic is only one piece of a much larger puzzle, providing people with useful information can play an important role in effecting change. Quality report cards are regarded as a crucial component of a long-term strategy to harness the power of informed consumers to reform the American health care system.[1][2]

Information is essential to an efficient market.

One theory is that information on quality, and ideally value, will enable the “health care market” to work as it should. Armed with the right information and the ability to use it, consumers and purchasers will presumably select the “best” health plans and providers and avoid those that perform inadequately. At the same time, health care organizations faced with public information that clearly reveals differences in performance will improve the quality of care they offer in order to compete effectively.[3]

Information is required for accountability.

Another important perspective is that transparency itself has the power to bring about change. Consumer reports shine a light on the performance of health care organizations and compel them to acknowledge that patients and purchasers have a “right to know” what they are getting.

[1] Shaller DV, Sofaer S, Findlay S, Hibbard JH, Lansky D, Delbanco S. Consumers and quality-driven health care: a call to action. Health Aff 2003; 22(2):95-101.
[2] Leape LL. Transparency and Public Reporting Are Essential for a Safe Health Care System. The Commonwealth Fund. March 2010.
[3] Ginsburg PB, Kemper NM. Health Care Quality Transparency: If You Build It, Will Patients Come? Center for Studying Health System Change. Commentary No. 4. July 2009. Available at

Also in "Make the Case for Consumer Reporting"

Page last reviewed July 2011
Page originally created February 2015
Internet Citation: Public Information as Part of a Multi-Pronged Strategy. Content last reviewed July 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.