Transparency: Consumers Have a Right to Know
// By Daniel Fell //
Should consumers choose doctors and hospitals based on how many stars they have? If not, then what information should consumers and patients use in determining where to go for healthcare services? Rating healthcare providers by the number of stars they have may be overly simplistic, but the majority of consumers may not be aware of other healthcare quality data that is out there, how to access it, and how to use it to make decisions about healthcare options.
One example is quality data compiled by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), which rates heart surgery programs throughout the U.S. The organization was prominently featured in the news recently. Its program is a voluntary, self-reporting quality data initiative intended to help physicians and consumers evaluate a provider’s quality and outcomes, both public and accessible. The society’s website states: “As a national leader in healthcare transparency and accountability, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons believes that the public has a right to know the quality of surgical outcomes.”
The problem is this: It is voluntary. And what consumers don’t know can hurt them.
If our goal as a society is to make patients — and consumers in general — more accountable for their healthcare decisions, then we also have to give them the tools and resources to make the best possible decisions.