In a Health Affairs blog post, Maribeth Shannon -- director of the California HealthCare Foundation's market and policy monitor program -- writes that "in spite of an explosion of available online health care quality information, U.S. consumers, who are more frequently researching simple decisions online, have been reluctant to adopt the same behaviors to research their health care options." CHCF is the publisher of iHealthBeat.
Shannon notes that consumers who seek out health information online face an "increasing challenge" in sorting through the data. According to Shannon, there are more than 200 Web sites offering health care quality information that is calculated and displayed in different ways.
Shannon writes that "there is need for greater standardization in quality reporting, as well as standardized means of making this information more accessible to health care consumers."
She adds, "Ideally, information that helps consumers make substantive choices about quality of care should be available at the time they are faced with serious health care decisions and be presented at a level of detail they can understand." According to Shannon, public reporting systems should work to simplify health care quality data so it is easier for consumers to understand.
She concludes, "If we are expecting consumers to play a critical role in choosing the best path [for their health care], we must help them better navigate the twists in the road, providing them with easily understandable roadmaps" (Shannon, "Health Affairs Blog," Health Affairs, 10/4).