Consumers Ignore High Hospital Mortality Rates

Studying the effect of hospitals' mortality rates on use

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health examined consumer response to information on hospital mortality released by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA)—now the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services—from 1986 to 1993.

The data were intended to aid consumers in making informed decisions when selecting hospitals. The study, conducted from 1993 to 1995, evaluated how hospital utilization—measured in discharges—was affected by the release of the data and by news stories publicizing both the HCFA data and other, anecdotal information regarding hospital quality.

Key Findings

  • The study found that, in the main, consumers and their physicians did not respond to HCFA's data by shifting their use of hospitals.

  • Press reports of single unexpected deaths in individual hospitals, however, were associated with significant, though temporary, reductions in discharges at those hospitals.