Saturday, December 6, 2008

Will Consumers Shop For Doctors and Hospitals Like Republicans Say We Would? Studies say NO!

Here’s something from that blows a giant hole in the argument that a consumer driven health care system, where you get to shop for doctors and hospitals, is not the answer Republican promise it would be. After the last 12 years, why would we take their advice anyway? Will Democrats use this information to argue for universal health care coverage? Probably not.

Why Patients Don’t Use Rating Systems That Compare Health Care Providers
The following tidbit was buried within the Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report a few days
ago: “Fewer Patients Using Health Care Provider Quality Ratings Web Sites To Make Decisions.” The headline could just have easily read: “More Bad News for Consumer-Driven Medicine.”

One of the most persistent dogmas of the consumerist crowd is that patients are eager to comparison shop for health care—and that, if they aren’t doing so today, it’s only because they don’t have the necessary information. But according to an October survey from Kaiser, people just don’t comparison shop for health care. In fact, only one in seven (14 percent) of Americans “say they have seen and used information comparing the quality among different health insurance plans, doctors, or hospitals in the past year.” At the same time, 30 percent of Americans say that they came across comparative quality information over the course of this year—which means less than half of patients who come across comparative data on health care providers actually use it.

These numbers stand in stark contrast to the consumerist creed, which insists that, as time marches on, more health care ranking resources will improve patients’ exposure to, and appreciation for, comparative data. Perhaps even more damning is the fact that the proportion of people who actually use such resources has dropped over the past few years: in 2006, 20 percent of Americans had seen and used comparative information, versus 14 percent in 2008.

Clearly, comparative rankings in health care are not catching on. Kaiser’s lackluster results were seconded in a survey from the California Healthcare Foundation, which found that “virtually no patients” look at health care rating sites in order to make medical decisions (the actual data point was a measly onepercent). "The basic problem of these kinds of ranking systems is that patients do not [really] choose [doctors] on the basis of scores,” said Dr. Bryan Liang of the California Western School of Law to the Press-Enterprise, a Southern California paper. “They choose on the basis of personal familiarity and experience with the health care entity or provider."

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