Going online, patients are likely to encounter many types of data, for instance, about how people like their physicians or the office staff, said Steve Findlay, a healthcare analyst with Consumers Union, last week at a symposium in Washington on "Getting to a High-Value Health System." While that experience-of-care information is helpful, it falls short of providing more detailed comparative, high-quality data that they can link to their care.
"We haven't yet got to a place where this is easy for consumers to use. It's just simply not easy," Findlay said. "It's a conundrum. We [consumers] don't quite yet know what quality of care is or what quality measurements are."
Consumers Union addressed that dilemma in part this week by announcing a new program and Web site by which patients and consumers can look up patient satisfaction ratings to more than 3,400 hospitals across the country.
The data is being used to link patient satisfaction and quality of care issues: Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is using the federal government's Hospital Consumer Assessments of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (better known as HCAHPS) and the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care to view patients' views of their care.
Consumers Union found that hospitals that have above-average patient satisfaction had shorter hospital stays and more conservative care patterns.