PRESS RELEASES | NEWSROOM | WEDNESDAY, JULY 12TH, 2017

New Research: Quality Matters to Patients, but Perceptions Vary Depending on Health Needs

National surveys examine public perceptions of quality in diabetes care, joint replacement and maternity care

DATE OF RELEASE: WEDNESDAY, JULY 12TH, 2017

New York City – Patients care about quality in health care, but the qualities that are important to them depend on their health needs, according to a newly-released report based on findings from three national surveys of people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, people who recently had joint replacement surgery and women who recently gave birth. Research from Public Agenda, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shows that while both interpersonal and clinical qualities of doctors and hospitals are important to patients, more work needs to be done to measure and communicate about these qualities in ways that are relevant to people seeking care.

“Understanding what the public cares about when it comes to their health care is an important piece of the puzzle of making health care more affordable while improving, or at least not diminishing, quality” said Will Friedman, president of Public Agenda. “We thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for supporting our work to give voice to patients’ perspectives on what quality means to them.”

The research focused on people in three groups: those who were recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, those who recently had a joint replacement or who recently gave birth. Questions were asked about their perspectives on interpersonal qualities of doctors, such as how doctors communicate with patients, and about their perspectives on clinical qualities of doctors and hospitals, such as rates of patients’ health outcomes. The research found that, across the three groups:

  • A majority of people say both interpersonal and clinical qualities of doctors and hospitals are important for high-quality care. But how important depends on their health needs.
  • Few people across the three groups are aware that quality varies or that price varies for doctors or for hospitals.
  • Most people said they had at least some choice among doctors. But fewer people who recently had a joint replacement or gave birth had much choice among hospitals.
  • Most people rate the overall quality of care they received positively. But some are uncertain how their doctors and hospitals stacked up on clinical qualities.
  • More people spent time learning about the care they needed than about doctors or hospitals providing that care. Few people knew or tried to find out if a doctor or hospital had the clinical qualities that they think are important.
  • About half of people say there is enough information available about quality. Fewer say there is enough information about price.



The research also found that, across the three groups, most people do not think quality and price are related. Most also say that they did not spend more out of pocket to get the quality of care they wanted.

“It’s difficult to deliver care that is truly patient-centered without first understanding what people value when it comes to their care,” said Tara Oakman, Ph.D, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This work provides an important opportunity to hear directly from real people about what matters to them most.”

These and other survey findings are summarized in a new report, “Qualities That Matter: Public Perceptions of Quality in Diabetes Care, Joint Replacement and Maternity Care.” The research was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Findings are based on three nationally representative surveys conducted in October 2016: a survey of 407 adults recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes; a survey of 406 adults who recently had a joint replacement surgery; and a survey of 413 women ages 18 to 44 who recently gave birth at a hospital.

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About Public Agenda

Public Agenda helps build a democracy that works for everyone. By elevating a diversity of voices, forging common ground, and improving dialogue and collaboration among leaders and communities, Public Agenda fuels progress on critical issues, including education, health care and community engagement. Founded in 1975, Public Agenda is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in New York City. Find Public Agenda online at PublicAgenda.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/PublicAgenda and on Twitter at @PublicAgenda.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.

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