Engaging Consumers in Improving the Health Care System

Building consumer demand for health care transparency and accountability in outpatient care

Field of Work: Engaging consumers in health care quality issues.

Problem Synopsis: Measuring the quality and price of care, and then reporting those findings to the public, is a core component of improving health care. A strong consumer voice helps to drive the demand for performance information, and to ensure that the information is meaningful and usable to those receiving care.

Yet that voice has been largely absent from health care quality discussions. Consumers have not historically been welcome at discussions of performance measurement and consumer groups have tended to focus on other parts of the health agenda, especially cost and access.

Synopsis of the Work: From 2004 to 2010, the National Partnership for Women and Families organized a broad-based network of consumer advocates at the grassroots and national levels to bring the consumer perspective to health care quality issues.

Key Results: The National Partnership established a core group of 200 grassroots consumer leaders and supported their engagement in national and local quality activities. It also formed a coalition of some 16 national consumer organizations, which helped to advocate for consumer interests and to serve on national panels and committees engaged in quality issues.

In 2007, the National Partnership shifted its focus to the 16 community alliances participating in Aligning Forces for Quality, RWJF’s signature initiative to improve health care. Most of the alliances have increased the participation of consumers and consumer advocacy organizations, and created new roles for them.

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