Consumers' use of HCAHPS ratings and word-of-mouth in hospital choice

Health Serv Res. 2010 Dec;45(6 Pt 1):1602-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2010.01153.x.


Objective: To investigate the impact of the HCAHPS report of patient experiences and word-of-mouth narratives on consumers' hospital choice.

Data sources: Online consumer research panel of U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

Study design/data collection/extraction methods: In an experiment, 309 consumers were randomly assigned to see positive or negative information about a hospital in two modalities: HCAHPS graphs and a relative's narrative e-mail. Then they indicated their intentions to choose the hospital for elective surgery.

Principal findings: A simple, one-paragraph e-mail and 10 HCAHPS graphs had similar impacts on consumers' hospital choice. When information was inconsistent between the HCAHPS data and e-mail narrative, one modality attenuated the other's effect on hospital choice.

Conclusions: The findings illustrate the power of anecdotal narratives, suggesting that policy makers should consider how HCAHPS data can be affected by word-of-mouth communication.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior*
  • Female
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Patient Satisfaction*