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U.S. Consumers Equate Cost With Quality

EUGENE, Ore. (UPI) — If American consumers are asked to choose a healthcare provider based only on cost, they choose the more expensive option, U.S. health officials said.

Study leader Judith H. Hibbard of the University of Oregon in Eugene said consumers equate cost with quality and worry lower cost means lower-quality care.

However, higher costs may indicate unnecessary services or inefficiencies, so cost information alone does not help consumers get the best value for their healthcare dollar, the researchers said.

Hibbard and colleagues studied 1,400 employees in a randomized experiment to find out how they responded to different presentations of quality and cost information.

The study published in Health Affairs found that when consumers were shown both cost and quality information, they were better able to choose high-value healthcare providers — defined as those who deliver high-quality care at a lower cost.

“This study has important implications for the more than 150 public reports on physician and hospital care,” Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

“It’s not simply a question of providing information on cost, but providing it in a way that is integrated with quality scores.”

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