Ratings don't influence consumers' healthcare choices

January 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

The publication of ratings and rankings of health plans, hospitals and physicians has had almost no impact on the choices consumers make.

The publication of ratings and rankings of health plans, hospitals and physicians has had almost no impact on the choices consumers make, according to a study by Rochester, NY-based Harris Interactive. Participants were asked via telephone whether they could remember seeing any ratings of hospitals, health plans or physicians, whether they had considered making a change based on these ratings, and if so, whether they had actually made a change. The results showed that, though millions of people have seen the rankings, only 1% or less of adults have changed providers or health plans as a result.

A comparison of 2001 and 2002 data also found no evidence that these evaluations are growing in influence. A virtually identical survey conducted 12 months earlier shows that, from 2001 to 2002, there were modest increases in participants' recall of ratings of hospitals and plans (but a small decrease for ratings of physicians) and no increase in influence.

Where influence occurs

While quality rankings and ratings of health plans and providers have almost no influence on consumers, they do have a minimal influence on the hospitals, providers or health plans being ranked, according to Harris. This influence, however, may not be very significant.

"Our impression is that this influence is limited, that employers who carefully evaluate and use objective data on the quality of health plans, such as HEDIS, or health plans whose decisions about hospitals are so influenced, are in a small minority," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll at Harris Interactive. "For most third-party payers, cost, reputation and (to a lesser degree) member satisfaction (or the absence of complaints) are the main drivers of choice." PR

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