|Quality Transparency Tools For Consumers Seen Having Minimal Impact
The usefulness and pervasiveness of the tools health
plans are developing to help consumers compare provider price and
quality information are limited, according to a study by the Washington
D.C.- based Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).
The information often lacks specificity about individual
providers, and its availability is often limited to enrollees in
specific geographic areas. Likewise, few plans provide price
information on services in physicians’ offices.
The study is based on HSC’s site visits to 12
nationally representative metropolitan communities in 2007: Boston;
Cleveland; Greenville, S.C.; Indianapolis; Lansing, Mich.; Little Rock
Ark.; Miami; northern New Jersey; Orange County, Calif.; Phoenix;
Seattle; and Syracuse, N.Y. HSC has been tracking change in these
markets since 1996.
When providing quality information, health plans
generally rely on third-party sources to package publicly available
information instead of using information from their own claims, the
"We’re a long way from a critical mass of
consumers trusting and using the information to choose physicians and
hospitals," said Paul Ginsburg, president of HSC, a nonpartisan policy
Many large employers view price and quality transparency
as key to a broader consumerism strategy. Some health plans consider
providing price and quality information as a competitive advantage,
while others are skeptical about the benefits and are proceeding
cautiously to avoid potential unintended consequences, the study found.
For example, plan executives are concerned that
enrollees may interpret high prices as a proxy for high quality and
shift to higher-cost providers, thus raising costs, but not necessarily
Address: Center for Studying Health System Change, 600 Maryland Ave. SW #550, Washington DC 20024; (202) 484-5261, www.hschange.com.