Healthcare Report Cards: Low GPAJul 5th, 2012 | By Elc Estrera
A. D. Sinaiko, D. Eastman, and M. B. Rosenthal
Health Affairs. 2012.
Did you know you’ve had access to cost and quality information on physicians, physician groups, and hospital providers for over two decades? If you didn’t, you’re in good company. A recent study by Anna D. Sinaiko and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health examined why consumers rarely use “Healthcare Report Cards.” The study cited deficiencies in content, design, and accessibility as major barriers to consumers using this publicly-available healthcare information.
To understand how consumers used healthcare report cards, the authors administered an online survey to participants of the March 2011 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality National Summit on Public Reporting. They also conducted interviews with experts in the development of consumer-directed public reporting and stakeholder groups. Among respondents, the primary criticism was direct at the content in report cards. Existing healthcare report cards use measures replete with technical language and are difficult for consumers to navigate.
Most respondents agreed on two modes of improvement. First, the generic structure of current reports should be abandoned. Rather, report cards should include “personalized, tailored information that meets consumers where they are.” Report cards should be geared to individual consumers, with information based on their individual constraints, such as costs and preexisting conditions. Second, report cards should contain more consumer-focused measures. The authors found that consumers are most interested in measures that address broad outcomes such as mortality, health, and functionality. In addition, “consumer share of cost, composite measures by condition, and composite measures tailored to segments of the population by demographic and health status” would be useful.
But two challenges stand in the way of these improvements. First, more funding is needed to gather and analyze the measures that report cards are intended to present. Second, consumers themselves are unaware of “quality variation” among providers, so few event try to “shop around” for the best care.
Sinaiko et al. see progress coming on these challenges from both the state and federal levels. For example, Section 3013 of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 prioritizes measurement development in health outcomes and patient experiences. Nevertheless, policymakers face a long road ahead to ensure that healthcare report cards become a valuable resource for American consumers.
Feature Photo: cc/Jerry Bunkers