Choosing a Health Care Provider

The Role of Quality Information

In a consumer-driven health care model, consumers, armed with information, would select providers based on quality and cost, thus increasing competition. This synthesis examines the availability of quality information and the evidence of how consumers use such information to choose a provider. Key findings include: information is publicly available from multiple sources regarding hospitals, but not individual doctors. Hospital information is predominantly made available online; but this limits awareness and access. Awareness is low overall, but highest among well-educated, healthy people. Even when consumers are aware of the data available, they rarely use it because they do not find it relevant: they do not foresee needing a hospital soon; are happy with their current provider; or did not find information pertinent to their specific health condition or hospital. While there is some evidence that hospitals that do poorly on public quality scorecards lose market share, there is better evidence that the providers themselves react to the quality scores by addressing care problems. Studies consistently show that consumers value health care quality and want information, but instead they rely on input from friends, family and their personal physicians about the quality of providers.