Consumers Will Choose Safer Hospitals 97% of the Time, Regardless of Cost

December 2, 2014

ANN ARBOR, MI.—According to a new study, when patients are shown Hospital Safety Score grades and cost information together, consumers will choose safer hospitals 97% of the time, regardless of cost.

These results, from a study titled “The Effects of Hospital Safety Scores, Total Price, Out-of-Pocket Cost, and Household Income on Consumers’ Self-Reported Choice of Hospitals,” can be found in the latest issue of The Journal of Patient Safety, in an article written by Altarum Institute’s Center for Consumer Choice in Health Care (CCCHC). The research highlights consumers’ understanding of the Hospital Safety Score, published twice annually by The Leapfrog Group.

The study measured the relative influence of the following three factors in consumers’ choice of hospitals: (1) total cost, (2) out-of-pocket cost, and (3) safety as measured by the Hospital Safety Score letter grade. The survey was administered to 2,357 online respondents.

On average, 94% and 88% of the respondents chose the safer hospital in the two survey questions. In all but one of 30 possible scenarios, respondents chose the safer hospital regardless of cost difference. The only scenario in which more respondents chose a lower-safety hospital was when the person could save $1,000 of their own money in return for selecting a B-grade versus an A-grade hospital. The vast majority of respondents would not sacrifice greater differences in safety for a lower price.

Higher incomes, higher health literacy, and being female were associated with an even stronger preference for the safer hospital. There was a small effect suggesting that approximately 4% of the respondents selected a higher-total-cost hospital despite lower safety, but it was outweighed by predominant selections of the safer hospital.

“These results indicate that consumers are well equipped to assess the tradeoffs of price and safety,” said Wendy Lynch, director of CCCHC. “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.”

“It’s wonderful to see the data reinforce the value of the Hospital Safety Score,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “If you give the consumers a simple, understandable metric about safety, consumers are fully capable of making their own, informed choices about where to get their care.”

For more information, please visit www.altarum.org/CCCHC. For information on Altarum’s new consumer engagement measure, please visit www.altarum.org/ACEMeasure.

Contact Information
Ken Schwartz
202-772-5062
ken.schwartz@altarum.org

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Altarum Institute (www.altarum.org) integrates objective research and client-centered consulting skills to deliver comprehensive, systems-based solutions that improve health and health care. Altarum employs more than 400 individuals and is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with additional offices in the Washington, DC, area, and Portland, Maine.

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