Quality data have limited effect on patient choice

September 1, 2009

Choice of physicians and other health-care providers is sometimes influenced by quality data.

Choice of physicians and other health-care providers is sometimes influenced by quality data, but patients are often not aware that data are available or base their decisions on other criteria. This was the message of several papers presented at the annual meeting of AcademyHealth, a society of professional health researchers, American Medical News (7/13/09) reported.

According to one report, only 3% of patients would consider switching physicians in response to the physician's ranking in a tiering program, for example. The program divides physicians into three tiers with rankings based on efficiency and quality analyses of claims data. Even though patients who choose top-ranked physicians receive discounted copayments, many patients were not aware of the rankings after the program's first year and didn't trust the information, a researcher reported, adding that patients were more likely to trust their doctors than their employers or their health plan.

Similarly, a Rand Corporation study of the link between quality, health-care costs, and high-deductible health plans found that in the first year of enrollment, families with a deductible of more than $500 did reduce total health care expenses. No impact was seen on emergency department use, however, and families who also had a health savings account and an employer that was contributing significantly were less likely to have reduced costs.