The Progress of Ratings Services

The results of a somewhat disappointing poll for the participatory health care crew (this blog included) was publicized in American Medical News this week. The poll, conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by the California Health Care Association, found:

that although more than 80% of the state’s adults turn to the Internet for health-related information, less than one-quarter have looked at physician ratings sites. Only 2% of those surveyed made a change in physicians based on information posted on a rating site.

Further, the survey concluded:

that only 1% of respondents made a change in their hospital or health plan based on ratings sites devoted to those entities.

The findings are not that surprising.  Health care services have been consumed passively since the beginning of time.  A paradigm shift of this magnitude will take time.  Participatory health care utilized in an online fashion is in its infancy.  However, patients have long relied upon word-of-mouth suggestions from people they know to select care options.  As patients become more comfortable with online resources for selecting health care services, those services will become more persuasive much like traditional friend-to-friend word-of-mouth.

One of the biggest problems is the diffuse nature of ratings information.  The online ratings industry is booming.  Doctors are being rated.  Insurers are being rated.  Nurses are being rated.  Hospitals are being rated.  Etc.  And entrepreneurs long for a piece of the pie.  That means that many sites use different sources of information to create various iterations of ratings.

The next step is for ratings to begin to incorporate multiple sources of data and rank various components to come up with an overall value index.  Just such an index may improve the use of online rating services to select health care services.

The Health Blog brings us news about a new rating service called the Hospital Value Index created by Data Advantage.  The plan:

The idea is to measure not just quality, but also cost and efficiency to identify the best hospital bang for your buck.

It promises to rank more than 1,400 hospitals in markets covering 180 million people — roughly 42% of all hospital activity by its measure — and serve up lists of the top-value hospitals in the U.S., and in different markets. Another list shows “high value” hospitals ordinarily in the shadow of more famous neighbors.

The Health Value Index remains imperfect.  Read the Health Blog post for some of its drawbacks.  But the new rating service is an improvement that brings together diffuse information to more easily compare hospitals.  Looking forward to the next step along the innovation process…

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