Public reporting in health care: how do consumers use quality-of-care information? A systematic review

Med Care. 2009 Jan;47(1):1-8. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3181808bb5.


Background: One of the underlying goals of public reporting is to encourage the consumer to select health care providers or health plans that offer comparatively better quality-of-care.

Objective: To review the weight consumers give to quality-of-care information in the process of choice, to summarize the effect of presentation formats, and to examine the impact of quality information on consumers' choice behavior. The evidence is organized in a theoretical consumer choice model.

Data sources: English language literature was searched in PubMed, the Cochrane Clinical Trial, and the EPOC Databases (January 1990-January 2008).

Study selection: Study selection was limited to randomized controlled trails, controlled before-after trials or interrupted time series. Included interventions focused on choice behavior of consumers in health care settings. Outcome measures referred to one of the steps in a consumer choice model. The quality of the study design was rated, and studies with low quality ratings were excluded.

Results: All 14 included studies examine quality information, usually CAHPS, with respect to its impact on the consumer's choice of health plans. Easy-to-read presentation formats and explanatory messages improve knowledge about and attitude towards the use of quality information; however, the weight given to quality information depends on other features, including free provider choice and costs. In real-world settings, having seen quality information is a strong determinant for choosing higher quality-rated health plans.

Conclusions: This review contributes to an understanding of consumer choice behavior in health care settings. The small number of included studies limits the strength of our conclusions.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior*
  • Consumer Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Information Services / classification
  • Information Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Peer Review, Health Care*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • United States