Why can’t we shop for health care?

The idea of transparency in the health care system is something that is still an abstract idea for most consumers and patients.  For so long, the general public has accepted knowing very little about the care that they are receiving from the health care system.  The demand for comparability and ease of use is something that has been, by and large lacking for so long that consumers don’t know how unaccommodating our current system can be. In general, it’s been so bad for so long that in many cases most consumers don’t even think about it at this point.

Shopping for a car is probably the most fitting analogy.  Just as when buying appliances or other items, the data is out there for people to see before they purchase a car.  Consumers can look at what cars are rated the best values, what ones might die on them 4 years from now, and compare crash safety ratings so they know what models will keep their families safe.  Most people don’t ask themselves, “why can I get online and go to ten different websites to shop for a car, but I don’t know where to start looking if I need to choose a hospital for my pregnancy?”

There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way people view the health care system.  There are resources out there if people want to do research before visiting their doctor or having a surgery. We’ll also be writing about this topic again later in the week so look back for more information.  In the meantime here are some other possible resources folks can get acquainted with before their next visit!

Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council – http://www.phc4.org/ (Great PA specific data, click on “Hospital Performance Report 2008” and follow the directions to compare Pittsburgh area hospitals on a variety of measures).

Hospital Compare – http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov (A tool from the Federal Government that allows consumers to compare hospital data based on Medicare ratings.  Click on “Find and Compare Hospitals”to begin searching).

** As you look through these tools you’ll probably begin to realize they aren’t very “user friendly.” This is a major problem that’s decreasing how valuable they are for consumers and something CHC is involved in changing at the national level.  More on this later in the week…**

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