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Consumer reports in health care: do they make a difference?

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Center for Health and Public Policy Studies, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-7360, USA.


The public release of health care-quality data into more formalized consumer health report cards is intended to educate consumers, improve quality of care, and increase competition in the marketplace The purpose of this review is to evaluate the evidence on the impact of consumer report cards on the behavior of consumers, providers, and purchasers. Studies were selected by conducting database searches in Medline and Healthstar to identify papers published since 1995 in peer-review journals pertaining to consumer report cards on health care. The evidence indicates that consumer report cards do not make a difference in decision making, improvement of quality, or competition. The research to date suggests that perhaps we need to rethink the entire endeavor of consumer report cards. Consumers desire information that is provider specific and may be more likely to use information on rates of errors and adverse outcomes. Purchasers may be in a better position to understand and use information about health plan quality to select high-quality plans to offer consumers and to design premium contributions to steer consumers, through price, to the highest-quality plans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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