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Consumers and Health Care Professionals Have Different Views on Quality of Care

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Media Advisory Date: September 3, 1996

Consumers and health professionals think differently about what constitutes quality of care according to the report issued by the Oregon Consumer Scorecard Project (OCS Project). The OCS Project, funded by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR), examined other scorecard efforts nationwide, and developed and focus-group tested a number of different formats and presentation methods in reaching their conclusions.

"In addition to helping Oregon achieve its public health policy goals, the OCS Project provides a model for other states to follow in their efforts to develop scorecards," said Clifton R. Gaus, Sc.D., AHCPR's Administrator. "The Project represents a significant step forward in designing tools consumers can use to make more informed choices about their health care needs, especially consumers in rural areas and persons with significant chronic health conditions and/or disabilities."

The OCS Project, directed by Pamela Hanes, Ph.D., of the Oregon Health Policy Institute, revealed that consumers judge health plans, and health professionals and facilities, on the basis of very personal measures, such as how they gain access to specialty care for acute and/or chronic conditions. However, professionals use population-based performance measures in judging quality of care, such as outcomes of cancer treatment over time, and growth and development indicators for children.

These kinds of measures currently have little meaning to most consumers, yet their potential to shape quality of care and hold health plans accountable is great.

Among the Project's other major findings:

  • Consumers prefer having a variety of formats for reviewing information about health care plans and providers, but printed scorecards should always be available because of their lower cost and ease of distribution.
  • Regardless of the scorecard format, consumers need access to a "personal guide," a trained, knowledgeable individual who can assist consumers with scorecard information.
  • Consumers expressed a strong desire for information that describes the health plans in the consumers' own geographic area, as opposed to information that evaluates plans throughout the state.
  • Consumers are savvy about marketing and hype, and what they want is information that presents the real differences between health plans.
  • Health plans face a "data burden" that is costly and could be relieved by establishing uniform standards that all health plans and purchasers abide by. These standards would need to be independently audited to assure compliance with data specifications.

The OCS Project was carried out through AHCPR's regional Rural Center at the University of Washington and Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland.

The Project was conducted on behalf of the Oregon Consumer Scorecard Consortium, a public-private partnership created to develop a reliable source of health plan information for consumers. The final report can be obtained free of charge from the AHCPR Publications Clearinghouse, by calling 1-800-358-9295, and requesting publication number 96-N027.

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research sponsors research designed to improve the quality of health care, reduce costs and broaden access to essential services.

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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