Physician ratings help patients pick providers

April 17, 2013

As patients begin to spend more of their own money on their healthcare, they are also increasingly looking to rating systems to help select providers.

As patients begin to spend more of their own money on their healthcare, they are also increasingly looking to rating systems to help select providers.

Unfortunately for consumers, the healthcare industry has failed to agree on a standard system for rating and reviewing.

Although little exists in the way of standardized, industry-wide ratings for healthcare providers, blogs and Internet forums “generate high volumes of chatter that can inform healthcare decisions,” the study notes. A 2-year review by PwC of three consumer sites-two health and wellness sites and one of pregnancy and parenthood-revealed that cancer is the most frequently discussed diagnosis online, and most of the recommendations found online focused on medications and treatments. The most common tools now used to rate and review providers include the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems surveys, Health Effectiveness Data and Information Set measures, National Commitee on Quality Assurance standards, Medicare Quality Star ratings, the Leapfrog Group Hospital Survey, and The Joint Commission performance measures.

But the lack of standardization from the industry won’t stop consumers from rating, reviewing, and basing their healthcare decisions on the experiences of others. New research from the PwC Health Research Institute (HRI) indicates that half of consumers polled say provider payment should be linked to patient feedback.

The report also highlights the generational differences among patients and how age affects how and where they rate their providers. Pateints aged at least 65 years prefer to obtain quality data on their providers from the government, whereas consumers aged 18 to 24 years prefer to read reviews on blogs or social media sites.

Less than half of the consumers who responded to HRI’s survey (48%) say they read healthcare reviews online, and only 24% have written online reviews of their providers. Once consumers read online reviews, however, 68% admit using the information they found to choose where they receive their healthcare.

“This could be an indicator that better awareness and understanding of reviews could affect the future success of a doctor, hospital, insurer, or retail pharmacy,” the report notes.

About 20% of survey respondents say they used reviews they read online to choose a physician, and 16% used reviews to select a hospital. Men were more likely to use reviews to guide their decisions than women, according to the report.

Consumer Reports-well-known for rating and reviewing just about everything-has emerged as the most popular source of health ratings, as well, according to the HRI report. Health ratings were first published by Consumer Reports in 2008 and have done very well on newsstands, the company says. Ratings in three states were read by 80% of subscribers, and those readers have changed their behaviors as a result of reading the ratings, Consumer Reports tells HRI. For example, 26% of subscribers in Massachusetts told Consumer Reports that they were going to talk to their doctor about the ratings, and 55% said they planned on sharing the information they found with family and friends. About 7% of Consumer Reports readers said they planned to change hospitals after reading a story in the publication about hospital safety ratings.

The full HRI report can be found here and also includes data on ways healthcare organizations can use consumer ratings.

 

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