Patients will not use data to choose services

Patients are unlikely to use performance data to choose their health providers and drive improvements in quality, researchers writing in the BMJ argue.

The warning comes as the DoH has launched its Atlas of Variations in care, which outlines the amount PCTs spend on clinical services and links this with the health outcomes patients see.

The report by researchers at the Health Foundation said that giving patients high quality information should not be seen as a mechanism for driving improvements in the quality of care. Instead, presenting information to patients should be seen instead as having the softer and longer term benefit of creating a new dynamic between patients and providers, the researchers said.

The report highlighted that evidence from the past 20 years provides ‘little support’ to the idea that most patients behave in a consumerist fashion when it comes to choosing healthcare. It said: ‘Although patients are clear that they want information to be made publicly available, they rarely search for it, often do not understand or trust it, and are unlikely to use it in a rational way to choose the best provider.’

The report concluded: ‘In this paper, we present a significant challenge to those who believe that providing information to patients to enable them to make choices between providers will be a major driver for improvement in the near or medium term.

‘We suggest that, for the foreseeable future, presenting high quality information to patients should be seen as having the softer and longer term benefit of creating a new dynamic between patients and providers, rather than one with the concrete and more immediate outcome of directly driving improvements in quality of care.’

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