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Report: Consumers Craving Quality Information as They Make Health Decisions

By Michael Teitelbaum, CQ Staff

Nov. 28, 2006 -- Quality is more important to consumers than cost when making health care decisions, according to a study released Tuesday by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

Among 1,600 consumers surveyed, 86 percent searched for quality information compared with 47 percent who searched for cost of treatment information. Slightly more than three-fourths of consumers (77 percent) also ranked quality over cost (53 percent) when it came to selecting a hospital or clinic, according to the study. Both Blue Cross subscribers and non-Blue Cross subscribers were surveyed.

"Transparency in health care information is a growing trend and consumers want increased access to information so they can make the best decisions regarding their health care options," said Scott P. Serota, BCBSA president and chief executive officer.

Transparency in health care quality and prices has been a major focus for President Bush. In August, he issued an executive order requiring providers and plans doing business with federal health programs to make public data on the cost and quality of their care and to organize billing and insurance claims in a way that allows the cost and quality of medical procedures to be easily compared. Medicaid was exempted from the executive order. Administration officials also have called on private employers to push for greater transparency with health care providers.

A separate study published earlier this month by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that nearly 9 of 10 consumers would give more weight to quality than to total cost when choosing a provider for procedures such as open-heart surgery and cancer treatment.

In the BCBSA survey, quality information consumers selected included average length of stay in a hospital or clinic, patient satisfaction with the quality of care they received, and patient satisfaction on care coordination across medical teams and hospital complication rates.

The report also noted that people are doing more research and obtaining data on such items as treatment success rates and on the treating physician when making their health care decisions.

Women were more likely than men to use the Internet to gather health information, and 88 percent of consumers said they would search for treatment information if they were diagnosed with a medical condition.

The Blue Cross study was conducted in February 2006.

Mary Agnes Carey contributed to this story.

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