Empowering Health Care Consumers

Grantee Name

Public Agenda

Funding Area

Empowering Health Care Consumers

Publication Date

July 2020

Grant Amount

$120,498

Grant Date:

June 2018- March 2020

Achieving greater transparency in health care quality can ensure that New Yorkers have information on health care quality that is public, accessible, usable, and actionable.

Improving health care quality information and steering people toward higher-quality providers can prevent suffering and save money for consumers, providers, purchasers, and payers. Unfortunately, quality measurement and reporting systems have not been designed primarily for consumers. Many questions remain unanswered about New York State residents’ perceptions of quality, including how residents define good quality care; the extent to which people want information about the quality of doctors and hospitals; and their trust in potential sources of quality information. Addressing such questions help advance NYSHealth’s goal of empowering health care consumers.

In 2018, NYSHealth awarded Public Agenda a grant to conduct a survey on New York State residents’ interest, awareness, and preferences for accessing health care quality information.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

Public Agenda set out to understand New York State residents’ views on health care quality, including what they think quality means; the kind of information they want and who they want it from; and what they think the State’s role should be in providing this information and in holding doctors and hospitals accountable for quality. This project followed up a 2015 study by Public Agenda, co-funded by NYSHealth and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, on how people seek out and use health care price information.

Under this grant, Public Agenda:

  • Conducted a demographically representative survey of New York State residents through a combination of phone and online surveys. Among the findings:
    • New Yorkers worry as much about health care quality as they do about affordability and insurance coverage.
    • New Yorkers think high-quality health care from a doctor means that diagnoses are correct, treatments are effective, and communication is clear. High-quality hospital care means that treatments are effective, complications and errors are rare, and communication is clear.
    • Only about 1/3 of New York State residents think there is enough publicly available information about health care quality. Most New Yorkers say that information about effectiveness and error rates would help them identify high-quality doctors and hospitals.
    • Most New Yorkers trust actual patients as a source to find out the quality of a specific doctor’s or hospital’s care.
    • Both the State and health insurers should provide information about the quality of every doctor and hospital.
  • Prepared a report based on the findings that established a baseline for residents’ interest in health care quality information, their awareness of quality variation, and their preferences for accessing this information. Recommendations included:
    • Connect patients with each other and with hard data so that they can find out more about the quality of doctors’ and hospitals’ care.
    • Give doctors and other health care professionals the tools and training they need to discuss quality with patients.
    • Have the State build public trust by providing people with information about health care quality that is relevant to them in ways they can understand.
    • Have insurers provide people with information about quality and help them figure out how to use it.
    • Develop ways to measure and disclose information about doctors’ and hospitals’ communication skills, courtesy, and respect.
  • Shared survey findings widely, including through:
    • A panel discussion, hosted and moderated by NYSHealth, with quality experts on what the State, providers, and payers can do to meet the information needs of consumers;
    • A webinar hosted by NY Links, part of the New York State Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS quality improvement initiative; and
    • Coverage in Crain’s New York Business.

The survey’s findings about the State holding doctors and hospitals financially accountable for quality suggest that New York State residents want to see action on quality improvement and accountability. It also provided the State, payers, providers, consumer advocates, and other stakeholders with insights on how transparency efforts should be guided by the needs and interests of the public.

Further research should examine public views on a range of approaches to quality improvement and accountability so that consumers can be part of the conversation about how to create higher-quality, more affordable care. Additionally, the consumer perspective on hospitals’ evolving roles in health, health care, community life, and local economies should also be explored. Such insights would allow consumers to have a voice in their hospitals’ futures as New York State hospitals begin to consolidate, purchase physician practices, and open locations, such as urgent care clinics, that are not physically connected to traditional hospital buildings.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A