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JAMA. 1998 May 27;279(20):1638-42.

Use of public performance reports: a survey of patients undergoing cardiac surgery.

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Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



Publicly released performance reports ("report cards") are expected to foster competition on the basis of quality. Proponents frequently cite the need to inform patient choice of physicians and hospitals as a central element of this strategy.


To examine the awareness and use of a statewide consumer guide that provides risk-adjusted, in-hospital mortality ratings of hospitals that provide cardiac surgery.


Telephone survey conducted in 1996.


Pennsylvania, where since 1992, the Pennsylvania Consumer Guide to Coronary Artery Bypass Graft [CABG] Surgery has provided risk-adjusted mortality ratings of all cardiac surgeons and hospitals in the state.


A total of 474 (70%) of 673 eligible patients who had undergone CABG surgery during the previous year at 1 of 4 hospitals listed in the Consumer Guide as having average mortality rates between 1% and 5% were successfully contacted.


Patients' awareness of the Consumer Guide, their knowledge of its ratings, their degree of interest in the report, and barriers to its use.


Ninety-three patients (20%) were aware of the Consumer Guide, but only 56 (12%) knew about it before surgery. Among these 56 patients, 18 reported knowing the hospital rating and 7 reported knowing the surgeon rating, 11 said hospital and/or surgeon ratings had a moderate or major impact on their decision making, but only 4 were able to specify either or both correctly. When the Consumer Guide was described to all patients, 264 (56%) were "very" or "somewhat" interested in seeing a copy, and 273 (58%) reported that they probably or definitely would change surgeons if they learned that their surgeon had a higher than expected mortality rate in the previous year. A short time window for decision making and a limited awareness of alternative hospitals within a reasonable distance of home were identified as important barriers to use.


Only 12% of patients surveyed reported awareness of a prominent report on cardiac surgery mortality before undergoing cardiac surgery. Fewer than 1% knew the correct rating of their surgeon or hospital and reported that it had a moderate or major impact on their selection of provider. Efforts to aid patient decision making with performance reports are unlikely to succeed without a tailored and intensive program for dissemination and patient education.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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