Healthcare consumers think higher cost means better quality

Amid calls for better price transparency, U.S. healthcare consumers still equate cost with quality, according to a study in Health Affairs. The study found that when asked to choose a provider based only on cost, American consumers pick the more expensive option.

But when hospitals were clearly identified as high quality, consumers' healthcare decisions had less to do with cost, according to the study funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The study shows that the design of hospital report cards should provide consumers with cost information, along with easy-to-understand quality scores, according to the AHRQ. Report card formats, like including a check mark to signify "high-value," will help consumers realize that higher-quality care does not have to cost more.

With higher costs suggesting unnecessary or inefficient care, the findings show cost transparency alone does not foster high-quality services at lower costs.

Giving consumers both price and quality information could help save billions of dollars annually in overspending on healthcare services. A new white paper by Thomson Reuters found no correlation between price and quality of care. But according to the paper, better access to provider-specific price and quality information could cause healthcare spending to drop by about $36 billion a year, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

For more:
- read the UPI article
- here's the study abstract
- here's the AHRQ statement