Investigating consumer hospital choice: Demand and supply-side levers could address health care costs.


Tufts University School of Medicine, United States. Electronic address: [Email]


OBJECTIVE : Policies that aim to steer patients from higher to lower cost providers of comparable quality have potential to impact health care cost growth - but their effectiveness depends, in part, on consumer perceptions of value and willingness to make tradeoffs. We sought to understand what was required to shift substantial numbers of consumers to higher-value care settings for several "shoppable" conditions.
METHODS : A discrete choice experiment (DCE) was conducted to elicit patient preferences for hospital type. We used an Internet panel of 1005 Massachusetts residents to conduct this experiment in 2016. The DCE data were analyzed using alternative-specific conditional logit regression.
RESULTS : Consumers reported large influences of out of pocket costs, physician referrals and quality ratings on their choice of hospital. For example, up to a third of consumers would shift from Academic Medical Centers to community hospitals if the latter had higher quality ratings, lower copays or a physician referral. Choice of site for maternity care was most influenced by physician referral; cancer treatment and orthopedic procedures by quality ratings; and MRI by cost, suggesting that patients prioritize quality over cost as perceived risk increases.
CONCLUSIONS : Our findings provide guidance for identifying promising policy levers that most influence consumer choice of provider. However, the extent to which potential levers can influence choice is likely to be dependent upon the kind of care being sought.


Consumer preferences,Discrete choice experiment,Hospital choice,