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Am J Med Qual. 2011 Nov-Dec;26(6):433-40. doi: 10.1177/1062860611400898. Epub 2011 Sep 14.

Seek and ye shall find: consumer search for objective health care cost and quality information.

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  • 1University of Minnesota, 420 Delaware Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Significant investments have been made in developing and disseminating health care provider cost and quality information on the Internet with the expectation that stronger consumer engagement will lead consumers to seek providers who deliver high-quality, low-cost care. However, prior research shows that the awareness and use of such information is low. This study investigates how the information search process may contribute to explaining this result. The analysis reveals that the Web sites most likely to be found by consumers are owned by private companies and provide information based on anecdotal patient experiences. Web sites less likely to be found have government or community-based ownership, are based on administrative data, and contain a mixture of quality, cost, and patient experience information. Searches for information on hospitals reveal more cost and quality information based on administrative data, whereas searches that focus on clinics or physicians are more likely to produce information based on patient narratives.

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