Reports From the Field: Quality ratings have no effect on consumer choices

Quality ratings for hospitals, health plans, and physicians have almost no impact on the choices consumers make, a new study by Harris Interactive has concluded.

While consumers say they have seen the published results of quality studies, less than one percent of adults reported that they have changed health plans as a result.

The researchers asked a nationwide sample of 1,013 adults whether they had seen any ratings of hospitals, health plans, or physicians; whether they had considered making changes as a result; and whether they had made a change.

A survey in 2001 achieved similar results.

The researchers concluded that over the long term, the quality ratings could have an influence because organizations with unfavorable scores have taken steps to improve their ratings, and those with high scores use them in their advertiser.

Some employers do use quality indicators such as HEDIS data in choosing health plans, the researchers say.

"However, our impression is that this influence is limited, that employers who carefully evaluate and use objective data on the quality of health plans . . . are in a small minority. For most third-party payers, cost, reputation, and [to a lesser degree] member satisfaction [or absence of complaints] are the main drivers of choice," says Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll at Harris Interactive.

For more information, see the Harris Interactive web site: www.harrisinteractive.com.