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Americans are more concerned about medical errors than they are about flying on an airplane, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ).
In fact, 47% of the more than 2,000 Americans surveyed reported that they were "very concerned" about an error resulting in injury happening to them when receiving health care in general, and 40% expressed the same concern about going to a doctor’s office for care. Only 32% reported being concerned about an error causing an injury when flying on commercial airplanes. In addition, the majority believes the government should promote, monitor, and provide information about the quality of health care and that providers should be required to publicize information about medical errors.
The vast majority of those surveyed said that information about medical errors (71%) made by a health plan’s doctors and hospitals was tops in determining the quality of health plans, and that malpractice suits (70%) would be the biggest factor they would use in determining the quality of doctors.
Other factors respondents said would tell them "a lot" about the quality of a doctor includes how many times a doctor has done a specific medical procedure (65%), whether the doctor is board certified (63%), and how patients surveyed rate how well the doctor communicates (57%). Only 19% said that cost of treatment would be a factor in determining the quality of a doctor. (For more information, see chart.)
At the same time, respondents to the survey of more than 2,000 adults showed that people are more likely to rely on the recommendations of family, friends, and health professionals they know than on standardized quality indicators. They also said that they are more likely to choose familiar hospitals and doctors, rather than highly rated ones. In fact, half of the respondents said they would choose a surgeon they had seen before and who was well-rated, compared to 38% who said they would choose a surgeon who was rated higher. Less than 20% of respondents cited consumer groups, government agencies, or newspapers or magazines as a source that would have "a lot" of influence their choice of a physician. (See chart.)
Only 7% of the public have seen information about quality on the Internet, although 28% said they would be likely to go on-line for such information in the public. About one in 10 respondents say they have used information that compares quality among doctors, hospitals, or health plans to help them make their health care choices.
The survey showed that while most Americans get their health coverage through the workplace, 60% do not believe that employers are a trusted source of information on the quality of health plans because they believe the employers are more concerned with saving money on the benefits they provide.
Provider experience plays an important role in determining the quality of a doctor or a hospital, according to the study. For instance, 65% say the number of times a doctor has conducted a specific medical procedure is an important measure of quality. Health plan quality measures cited by respondents include whether the plan has a program to help people with chronic illnesses (67%), how easy it is for plan members to see specialists (66%), and how quickly patients can see a doctor when they need an appointment (64%).
Despite the increased use of the Internet, only 9% of respondents say they have "a lot" of trust in health Web sites for accurate information about prescription drugs, while 70% say they trust doctors and pharmacists to provide the information. Nearly three-quarters (73%) favor the government requiring health care providers to report all serious medical errors and to make sure the information is publicly available More than half (60%) believe the government should be involved in promoting, monitoring, and providing information about the quality of doctors, hospitals, and health plans.