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Americans Still Focusing on Medical Errors

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Despite consumers' concern about quality, this "disconnection" also demonstrates that other factors such as cost continue to play a large roll in health care-related purchasing decisions, says Sam Ho, MD, director of quality management for PacifiCare Health Systems, a national insurer. About half of all Americans with health insurance are covered by employer-based plans, making comparative quality information also less relevant to most consumers, he points out.

Still, the survey will help employers and consumers make better choices down the line, says Greg Meyers, MD, MSc, director of the Center for Quality Measurement and Improvement at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The survey shows what type of information consumers want, and will help design new methods for disseminating that information to health care purchasers such as employers, he tells WebMD.

Additional findings of the survey were:

  • People are more likely to ask for recommendations about doctors, hospitals, or health plans from people they know -- like friends and family -- than to contact official organizations or look at printed information.
  • Medical errors are considered the top measure of health care quality.
  • In determining the quality of care provided by a certain health plan, people are more likely to look at the doctors' qualifications than the access they might have to specialists or the plan's cost.
  • Although people are turning to the Internet for health care information, few trust the information provided by web sites
  • A majority of Americans believe that the government should be more involved in providing information about the quality of health care offered by different health plans and providers.

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