Public Reporting on Quality and Costs

Do report cards and other measures of providers’ performance lead to improved care and better choices by consumers?

Public reporting is a strategy to address quality and cost in the health care system by providing consumers, payers, and health care providers, such as doctors and hospitals, with information about the performance of these providers and insurance plans.

It can include such tools as “report cards” on hospital performance, including the information found on the Medicare Hospital Compare website about how well hospitals deliver heart attack care. Public reports can allow for the comparison of costs, quality (such as rates of hospital acquired infections), and how satisfied patients are with service.

According to a new policy brief from Health Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a 2011 survey of 29 health care experts at a national reporting summit found that while no one doubted the value of public and private investments made in public reporting, most agreed that the information provided so far has had relatively little impact on the choices made by consumers.

There is mixed evidence about the degree to which public reporting has sparked changes in health care quality, and it appears that more work lies ahead if public reporting is to meet expectations and fulfill hopes that it can spur broad change in health care delivery and consumer use.

This Health Policy Brief examines whether public reporting is making a difference in improving health care quality and lowering costs, and was published online on March 8, 2012 in Health Affairs.