Health Care Quality and Customer Satisfaction Not the Same

This post is part of our “Visualizing the Future:  Health Benefits in 2016 and Beyond” series, in which Mercer consultants share key take-aways for employers from “Health Market 2.0,” a recent conference hosted by Mercer’s sister firm, management consultant Oliver Wyman.  

During a session on provider quality transparency for consumers, I was disturbed to learn that two vendors in the space who had representatives at the conference base their quality data on consumer feedback, similar to online Yelp reviews. While there’s an important place for that data, it is not a measure of quality but of customer satisfaction. Given the relatively poor job the cost/quality transparency companies have done on the quality assessment side, it is easy to understand how this consumer data has come to fill the void. However, with the release of the CMS data set and inferential attribution tools, we are seeing very sophisticated quality assessment tools beginning to emerge that can meaningfully distinguish quality among providers.

For employers, the big opportunity is to move to narrow networks based on quality and reap the savings from paying for the right and needed care. This is likely to take the form of ACOs with wrap-around high-performing networks. Consumer satisfaction data can be leveraged within the context of those networks -- you can choose your provider based on bedside manner when the network has already been pruned of the poor-quality providers.

Making that transition will be easier if we do not allow our employees to confuse satisfaction for quality. We need to encourage those vendors working with the next generation of quality data and make sure those providing consumer assessment rather than quality data don’t blur the lines between the two.

David Kaplan
by David Kaplan

Global Leader for Clinical Services and Solutions, Mercer

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