Study: MD referrals, word of mouth drive choice of providers

Much of the dialogue in public policy assumes that consumers will make provider selections based on price and quality information if they can--despite growing evidence to the contrary. Now, another study has come out challenging the notion that transparency will change consumer habits. According to the study, by the Center for Studying Health System Change, most Americans rely on word-of-mouth and doctor referrals when they choose a healthcare provider.

The study, a nationally representative survey querying 13,500 adults with a 43 percent response rate, found that half of all consumers relied on word-of-mouth recommendations to choose a provider. Thirty-eight percent used physician recommendations, and 35 percent relied on health plan information.

Despite all the effort that's gone into compiling it, it seems that consumers still aren't big on using online provider information and ratings. Only 2.5 percent of consumers under going procedures used such data, seven percent of those choosing new specialists and 11 percent of those seeking new primary care doctors.

To learn more about the study:
- read the research brief

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