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Home / News & IndustryManaged Care Insight and Analysis
Updated: January 5, 2010
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 study found.

"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 research organization.

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 improving quality.

Address: Center for Studying Health System Change, 600 Maryland Ave. SW #550, Washington DC 20024; (202) 484-5261,

  This article was taken from:
Pay-For-Performance Reporter

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