It found that, three years after patients were first entitled to choose where to go for an outpatient appointment, most patients chose to rely on their past experience (56%), the experience of family and friends (52%) or the advice of a GP (13%) rather than consulting official information sources, for example NHS Choices (4%).
Cleanliness, quality of care and the standard of facilities available were the most important factors influencing choice.
Dr Anna Dixon, report co-author and director of policy at The King's Fund, said: ‘Patients recognise that the quality of care is an important factor when deciding which hospital to attend. However, currently they are not actively comparing hospitals or using performance data to select the highest quality provider, instead they continue to rely on their own experience or the advice of their GP.
‘There is a wealth of information available for patients and GPs in official reports and on government websites. If policy makers want patient choice to drive up quality more needs to be done to let patients know this information is available and make the data relevant, accessible and easy to use.'
A total of 2,181 patients took part in the survey.