A Field Experiment on the Impact of Physician-Level Performance Data on Consumers' Choice of Physician

This study evaluated the effect of a publicly available online report of physician-level data on the choice of primary care provider (PCP) among new members to the HealthPlus of Michigan health plan.

Between October 2009 and January 2010, new HMO members were informed of the searchable, online tool that presented physician performance reports with member satisfaction and overall clinical quality scores. 
One-half of the sample was provided extra encouragement to use the online report via a one-page letter outlining the importance of the report and how to access it, followed by a brief phone message reminder. After the new-member enrollment period ended, a survey was mailed asking about their use of the physician performance data, demographics, and information regarding frequency of daily Internet use.

Key Findings:

  • Twenty-eight percent of participants in the encouragement condition (N=356) versus 22 percent in the control condition (N=337), looked at the online report before selecting a PCP.
  • There was no evidence to support that the publicly available data on physician quality affects the quality of PCP chosen by the new plan members.

Difficulty using the online tool (multiple required fields and different drop-down menus) may have had an effect on the results of this study. Also, nearly one-third of new enrollees did not select a physician within the one year period, limiting the sample size. Consumers’ choice of PCP may also be based on location or word-of-mouth reputation, subsets not analyzed in this study.