Why is “Consumer Choice” a Critical Systems Issue?
More than 85% of all health care activities are managed by providers outside the formal delivery system by the individual “consumer” of care. In the vast majority of instances, individuals choose which doctor to see (or not), whose advice to follow (or not), and which medications to take (or not). When actively involved in making choices about care, patients experience fewer errors, fewer unnecessary procedures, and higher satisfaction. When incentivized, consumers also spend less while seeking higher value. Historically, the individual has been passive, underutilized, or excluded from choices about care in a system that overcomplicates and sometimes hides useful data about safety, price, and quality. In the face of mounting economic pressure in public and private systems, no one can afford to ignore the transformative potential of informed, empowered consumers.
What Are Our Core Strategies for Addressing This 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. This broad strategy is supported with more specific research, demonstration, and dissemination aims.
The research aim of the Center is to identify and understand the myriad factors that promote or impede the incorporation of consumer preferences regarding benefits, risks, and price into the health care decisionmaking process.
The demonstration aim of the Center is to seek out and secure real-world opportunities to test key principles, strategies, and Altarum-developed tools for putting the individual consumer at the center of health care decisions.
The dissemination aim is to position the Center as an active adviser and provider of technical assistance to communities, agencies, and employers that are exploring opportunities to better promote consumer choice in the health care decisionmaking process. The Center will also issue regular peer-reviewed research reports, articles, and presentations of interest and utility to the broader community.
How Will the Center’s Work Contribute to Broader Systems Change?
One critical means by which systems change is “pervasive information.” To this end, the Center will be creating a concise set of indices that measure consumer choice trends in health care decisionmaking. The set will be widely available in the health care marketplace. Once established, these indices will become familiar metrics in the health care industry, thus shaping how the industry perceives and reacts to consumer influence in the market.
Who Will Benefit From This Work?
The most immediate beneficiaries of the Center’s work will be consumers and both public and private payers. Successfully mobilized to ask more informed questions about their care, consumers have the greatest potential for improving the quality of the care they receive at reduced cost. Because health care cost increases are often passed on to consumers in the form of premium increases or increased cost sharing, cost reduction can benefit both consumers and payers alike. Additionally, care delivery systems that work aggressively to understand and meet consumer preferences can establish leadership positions in their respective markets.
Why is Altarum Uniquely Positioned to do This Work?
Altarum has decades of experience providing objective research and analysis to federal and state government clients on health care quality. That work has allowed the Institute to gain a unique perspective on what data sources are, and are not, of value to consumers as they navigate choices between providers, hospitals and procedures. The Institute’s internally and externally funded work measuring health care cost growth, coupled with its deep understanding of reimbursement systems, has afforded the Institute deep insight into the tools and incentives that must be created to better support consumers in health care decision making.
National Advisory Committee
A national advisory committee, drawing on leading experts from the employer, provider, consumer advocate and payer communities will be created by the close of 2011. The principal responsibility of the national advisory committee will be to help shape, advance, and evaluate the research and demonstration agenda of the Center.
Dr. Chris Duke is a Senior Analyst with Altarum Institute’s Survey and Patient Engagement Research Group and has been with Altarum since 2011. With a background in social psychology, statistics, and research methodology, Dr. Duke’s research specialty is in understanding patient engagement and satisfaction.
For general information about Altarum Institute, please contact Ken Schwartz at email@example.com.