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Who’ya Gonna Trust

by John Moore | November 08, 2007

Coming in on the T this morning picked up the local free rag, Metro.  What to my wondering eyes is plastered across the front page banner: “Health Concerns.” Seems as though yesterday, during the meeting of the Health Care Quality and Cost Council (HCQCC), concerns were raised regarding privacy of patient records and how to secure such privacy while concurrently using patient records to gather cost and quality metrics on providers in the Commonwealth.

As part of the universal healthcare law that was passed in April 2006, the HCQCC is tasked with creating a website wherein citizens can compare providers by cost and quality for specific surgical procedures and diagnostic tests (plan is to use patient records to perform such quality and cost analysis).  This will help insure that they receive the best value for care provided.  At least that is the objective. An enormous task and one fraught with such challenges as what type of information to use and where to source it, guarantying its accuracy, making it relevant, presenting it an easy to consume (consumer friendly) manner, etc.

Within  the Commonwealth’s HHS office, some attempt has already been made to provide such information.  Not the easiest to use, but if you are diligent, you will get some information.  Now what you do with that information, how you assess its validity and basically just try to make sense of it is a whole other story.

Frankly, I do not see Joe or Jane Average Consumer finding a lot of value here.  Maybe it is just poor presentation of the material, but I believe a larger challenge, most often overlooked, is the lack of an educated consumer when it comes to healthcare decision making.  Don’t get me wrong, the Internet is an extremely powerful information tool both for distribution and access of such information and its use for such purposes is accelerating.  The real challenge here though is how do you get a consumer to begin making some very important healthcare decisions, like which hospital should I go to for this procedure, or better yet, which doctor at which hospital.  I have yet to find any source of such comprehensive information on the Internet to help me make such a decision and I do this for a living!

Maybe that is why a survey conducted in early October of 500 Massachusetts residents found that 81% would rely heavily on their doctor’s recommendation for selecting a hospital.  When asked if another hospital was rated higher on a “trusted” website than the one their doctor recommended, 61% said they would still go back to their doctor for advice, rather than make a change based on a site recommendation.

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