BOX 8-2
Making Information on Quality Accessible to Consumers

Although accessible information exists to support consumer purchasing for most goods and services, few comprehensive resources are available for comparing the quality of health care providers and hospitals. One effort aimed at expanding the amount of such information is the initiative, sponsored by the Maine Health Management Coalition in partnership with the Maine Quality Forum, Maine Quality Counts, the Maine Health Access Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The goal of this initiative is to provide patients and consumers with easily accessible information on care quality for various providers and hospitals in the state. Provider and hospital participation, which is voluntary, has been high, with all Maine hospitals and about 70 percent of the state’s physicians participating. This information is being leveraged in the design of health insurance benefits through value-based insurance design. Insurance benefits for state employees provide lower deductibles and copays for the use of providers and care settings deemed of high quality by the initiative, which can encourage providers and hospitals to consider their care quality measures (Richardson, 2011).

organizations in the past year (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2008). Many Americans choose health care providers based on the advice of friends, relatives, and coworkers or on recommendations from a current provider or their health plan (Blendon et al., 2011; Kaiser Family Foundation, 2011; Tu and Lauer, 2008). One reason for the low usage of publicly reported information is that many consumers believe care quality does not vary significantly among different health care organizations and different clinicians, which limits their motivation to make use of independent quality assessments. Moreover, many current reporting efforts use language and presentation formats that impede consumers’ ability to use them for making decisions (Hibbard and Peters, 2003; Hibbard and Sofaer, 2010; Hibbard et al., 2002; Vaiana and McGlynn, 2002). Finally, consumers are heterogeneous in their use of publicly reported information, with usage varying based on demographic and socioeconomic factors. Thus the presentation and content of public reports need to be tailored to individual characteristics (Kolstad and Chernew, 2009).

Reporting also offers opportunities for clinicians to improve the quality of the care they provide by giving them more information on their current performance (Berwick et al., 2003). This type of information fills a critical need, because most physicians lack data on the care provided in their own practice, from their own rates of hospital readmissions to when their patients return to work. Without a baseline, clinicians cannot know

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