Section 8. Summary Recommendations and Conclusions

Users of Public Reports of Hospital Quality: Who, What, Why, and How?

The findings from this report provide one of the first detailed pictures of how many people are using public reports of hospital quality and how to best serve the needs of those users. In a world of limited resources, report sponsors will not be able to respond to all the specific recommendations from this report. However, our recommendations can be grouped into three general categories, and all Web sites might benefit from developing strategies within each category. A few key, actionable recommendations are:

  1. Refine overall Web site communications strategy to increase traffic to the site. Consider these three types of strategies: (1) media outreach and traditional marketing; (2) partnerships with consumer organizations such as AARP in your community to educate consumers on quality variation and how the Web site can help; and (3) search engine optimization. For most sites, improving search is the biggest opportunity for increasing traffic. Tagging content on the Web site so that it is more easily recognized by search engines—especially tagging hospital or clinic names—may be a particularly good way of improving search results. A Web site cannot influence consumer or health care professional behavior if individuals do not visit it in the first place.
  2. Redesign report to address unmet needs and improve functionality. Consider adding new measures to address unmet needs. Consider whether it is feasible in your community to provide performance information on individual physicians working in the hospital. Also consider the following recommendations:
    • Use less technical language.
    • Allow side by side comparisons of hospitals rather than showing information one hospital at a time or all hospitals at once.
    • Allow selection of individual hospitals to review rather than showing all hospitals or a predetermined selection.
    • Consider inclusion of composite measures.
    • Use interpretive labels for presenting performance (e.g., "better," "average," "worse").
    • Group and display measures in a conceptual quality framework (e.g., into defined areas of quality—patient safety, patient experience, care that is known to work) that helps visitors interpret the data.
  3. Periodically or on an ongoing basis, use Web analytics and AHRQ's Hospital-Public Report (H-PR) Survey to inform redesign considerations, using information on Web site visitor traffic, visitor engagement, and effectiveness in meeting visitors' needs.

In conclusion, it is encouraging that some consumers and health care professionals are finding these Web sites, and that, across the 16 Chartered Value Exchange (CVE)-affiliated sites in this study, almost half of consumer visitors are using the reports for hospital selection. Exciting opportunities remain for report sponsors: reaching consumer and health care professional markets more broadly as well as other markets that remain untapped, and improving the power of their reports by focusing on relevant content and by making it easier for individuals to find the hospitals that will provide them with the best care.

Page last reviewed December 2011
Internet Citation: Section 8. Summary Recommendations and Conclusions: Users of Public Reports of Hospital Quality: Who, What, Why, and How?. December 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.