Hundreds of millions of health care consumers use social media every day to find services, share experiences, make decisions, and report outcomes. Researchers in Altarum’s Center for Consumer Choice in Health Care are exploring this rich source of consumer information to capture the collective wisdom from “crowd-sourcing.” The innovative projects include addressing the following questions:

  • Why do people switch medications?  The Center is mining thousands of posts from consumers who report switching from one medication to another. CCHC is investigating the reasons for switching – including cost, symptom relief, side-effects, and perceived risks.
  • Do concerns or questions before a medical procedure predict outcomes?  By classifying perceptions and sentiment of hundreds of patient forum participants, the Center is working to detect patterns of events and outcomes before and after similar medical procedures.
  • As high deductible health plans become more common, are more consumers searching for the price of health care services?  By correlating Google search patterns with national and regional changes in health plan design, the team found that states with the greatest adoption of health savings accounts (HSA) also had higher rates of cost-related searches, as indicated in the graph below. This suggests that as more consumers enroll in HSAs – giving them an incentive to compare costs – they become more inclined to search the Web for better prices.

The Center for Consumer Choice in Health Care, one of four Critical Systems Issues research centers within Altarum Institute, serves as a vehicle for developing greater understanding, expertise, and leadership in an area of critical importance to the health of the nation.

Altarum has made a multimillion-dollar funding commitment to support these centers and seeks additional funds from foundations, government grants, and other sources to support their work. The overarching objective of the Center is to identify and promote systems-level structures and incentives that readily incorporate consumer preferences into all health care choices.

For additional information about the Center, please contact Chris Duke at chris.duke@altarum.org.