How to Engage the Public's Interest in Health Care Quality Data: Financial Incentives

Health care quality has received considerable expert attention in the past decade, but there is little evidence that consumers are seeking out information about the quality of care that providers offer. Between January 2004 and April 2006, researchers at New England Medical Center Hospitals examined ways to engage consumers' attention on quality and information about quality. Project activities included:

  • Interviewing representatives of consumers, providers and purchasers about the challenges of focusing consumer attention on quality.
  • Conducting a study of messages designed to get consumers to focus on quality.
  • Seeking greater consumer representation on the National Quality Forum.

Key Findings

  • The only way to engage the general public's interest in health care quality data is through the use of financial incentives.
  • Public reporting of data on quality improves the performance of health care providers, but more because providers are responding to the data than because the public is.
  • Interest in information about physicians appears high.