97% of consumers choose hospitals based on safety, regardless of cost

Consumers prioritize quality over cost when selecting hospitals, according to a study in the Journal of Patient Safety.

Researchers administered a survey to approximately 2,300 online respondents presenting them with scenarios in which they were required to select one of two hypothetical hospitals. In all the presented scenarios, the cost of hospital 1 remained constant, and hospital 2 had a lower Leapfrog Hospital Safety Score grade than hospital 1.

Researchers found that in all but one scenario (97 percent), respondents selected hospitals with a higher safety score even if the other hospital would cost less. They noted respondents with higher incomes, higher health literacy and who were female were more strongly associated with a preference for safer hospitals.

"These results indicate that consumers are well equipped to assess the tradeoffs of price and safety," said Wendy Lynch, director of Altarum Institute's Center for Consumer Choice in Health Care, which authored the article. "There has been some indication that, in the absence of safety information, the public equates a higher price with better care. This study tells us that with the right information, consumers make rational choices. Measures like Hospital Safety Scores need to be readily available to all consumers before inpatient care is needed so consumers can take all factors into account."

More articles on clinical quality:

Press Ganey launches survey solutions for Child HCAHPS
10 CMS programs with the most proposed quality measures
Online physician ratings don't correlate with quality of care

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