health care consumers, provider profiling, quality care, quality improvement, social marketing



  1. Boscarino, Joseph A. PhD, MPH
  2. Adams, Richard E. PhD


Despite a growing emphasis on providing health care consumers with more information about quality care, useful and valid provider-specific information often has not been available to the public or has been underutilized. To assess this issue in New York State, random telephone surveys were conducted in September 2002 and March 2003, respectively, of 1,001 and 500 English- or Spanish-speaking persons, 18 years or older. Results indicated that 33% of New Yorkers were very concerned about the quality of care, with African Americans being particularly concerned. Less than half of the respondents recalled hearing or seeing information about health care quality in the past year and less than 20% actually used this information in medical decision making. African Americans were the least likely to recall receiving or being exposed to quality-related information, whereas women and more educated adults were the most likely to report being exposed. Furthermore, New Yorkers received quality information from multiple sources, with about 20% saying that they obtained information about physician and hospital quality from media (eg, newspaper) and nonmedia (eg, recommendation by family member) sources. Evaluations of different kinds of information suggested that some types (eg, whether or not a doctor is board certified) carried more weight in health care decision making than other types (eg, government ratings). Unexpectedly, those who used information to make health care decisions were more likely to have reported experiencing a medical error in the household. Finally, in the 6-month follow-up survey, concerns about the quality of care in the state remained about the same, while fears of terrorism decreased and preparations for future terrorist attacks increased. In the survey, few major differences were found in results based on payer status (eg, private insurance versus Medicaid/no insurance). These findings have implications for both the private and public health care sectors. Specifically, they suggest that greater access to and use of provider-specific health care information by the public is a viable way to improve quality, particularly if health care professionals support the public use of these data.