Study examines views on healthcare quality assessments
Many U.S. adults believe there are fair and reliable ways to assess healthcare quality, according to the results of an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the Wall Street Journal Online’s Health Industry Edition.

The survey of 2,015 adults was conducted between Feb. 6 and 8, 2008.

Of the respondents, 76 percent of U.S. adults said it is fair for health plans to measure and compare the quality of care provided by medical groups using patient satisfaction surveys above all other quality measures versus 9 percent who feel the practice is unfair. Most adults are also interested in participating in and using web-based consumer ratings tools.

Approximately 60 percent of all respondents believe there are fair and reliable ways to measure and compare care quality provided by different hospitals and different medical groups, compared to 14 percent who disagreed.

Most adults (58 percent) believe it is fair to measure healthcare quality based on the use of electronic medical records; two years ago fewer than half of all adults (47 percent) believed this was a fair measure of quality, according to the survey.

Similarly, the results show that more adults today believe it’s fair to assess quality based upon the use of medical tests that measure how well doctors are managing patients with chronic medical conditions, the frequency with which doctors provide preventive screening tests to their patients and assessments of physicians by medical boards and third party organizations.

Far fewer consumers believe that assessing doctors’ prescribing habits (such as their use of generic vs. brand name prescription drugs) is a fair measure of quality, as indicated in the report.

“These findings suggest that as quality measurement in healthcare becomes more readily available to consumers and they become more familiar with these measures that trust in the process will increase. At the end of the day, however, it’s feedback from their peers – other patients – that matters most to consumers,” said Katherine Binns, president of the health care division at Harris Interactive.