Shopping around for doctors and hospitals

December 1, 2005

More and more patients are using their consumer skills to compare hospitals and physicians online. They use searchable databases—provided by their employers, insurers, and now the federal government—to conduct their comparison shopping, according to The New York Times (9/22/05).

More and more patients are using their consumer skills to compare hospitals and physicians online. They use searchable databases-provided by their employers, insurers, and now the federal government-to conduct their comparison shopping, according to The New York Times (9/22/05).

Several private health plans provide more comparative information than the federal government's site at http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov/ which uses Medicare and Medicaid data to compare 4,000 hospitals nationwide. Searchable data on hospitals are currently more prevalent than that on individual physicians. Yet, the trend is to include information on physicians, as well.

Patients search data culled from medical payment claims, hospital reports to Medicare, and health-care information provided by employers that belong to the Leapfrog Group, an alliance of employers that purchase health care. Although the data are not perfect, nor are they collected in a uniform way, it is hoped that the increased implementation of electronic medical records will make the ability to compare physicians and hospitals more efficient and reliable.