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Health Aff (Millwood). 2012 Mar;31(3):560-8. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2011.1168.

An experiment shows that a well-designed report on costs and quality can help consumers choose high-value health care.

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Institute for Policy Research and Innovation, Department of Planning, Public Policy, and Management at the University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA.


Advocates of health reform continue to pursue policies and tools that will make information about comparative costs and resource use available to consumers. Reformers expect that consumers will use the data to choose high-value providers-those who offer higher quality and lower prices-and thus contribute to the broader goal of controlling national health care spending. However, communicating this information effectively is more challenging than it might first appear. For example, consumers are more interested in the quality of health care than in its cost, and many perceive a low-cost provider to be substandard. In this study of 1,421 employees, we examined how different presentations of information affect the likelihood that consumers will make high-value choices. We found that a substantial minority of the respondents shied away from low-cost providers, and even consumers who pay a larger share of their health care costs themselves were likely to equate high cost with high quality. At the same time, we found that presenting cost data alongside easy-to-interpret quality information and highlighting high-value options improved the likelihood that consumers would choose those options. Reporting strategies that follow such a format will help consumers understand that a doctor who provides higher-quality care than other doctors does not necessarily cost more.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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