By Jaimie Dalessio
Americans spend more time choosing a new car than they do choosing a physician, says a new survey of more than 7,600 adults across 27 metropolitan areas, from Pittsburgh to Chicago and New York to Atlanta.
Although more than 90 percent of Americans reported that they consider choosing a physician or hospital major life decisions, most of them dedicate more time to car shopping, according to the survey conducted by Harris Interactive and released by Healthgrades this week.
- 42 percent spend 10 or more hours researching a car purchase
- 34 percent spend less than an hour researching a physician
Respondents were asked how many hours they spend researching cars, colleges, real estate agents, mobile cell phone plans, refrigerators, and gyms.
"The numbers were different for all of them, but the theme was consistent," says Archelle Georgiou, MD, a health-care consultant and former chief medical officer of United Health.
"It was astounding to see those results," Dr. Georgiou says. "We sort of intuitively knew what we'd see, but you have to scratch your head at the paradox: Health care is so important to all of us, but we don't spend a lot of time researching it."
Based on the survey, Georgiou believes lack of awareness has something to do with the lack of time we spend learning about potential doctors and hospitals.
"From the survey itself we know that between 42 and 45 percent of people are not even aware that objective performance information is available on hospitals and physicians, and so if you lack awareness you're not going to do the research," she says.
Additionally, Georgiou says consumers feel ill-equipped to assess the quality of a hospital or doctor.
"They have this perception that it's medical, clinical, and that they don't have training, they aren't capable of doing that. We have a responsibility to take the data and turn it into information that consumers can use."
Many companies, like Healthgrades and even Everyday Health's doctor, dentist, and hospital search tool, are translating doctor and hospital performance into a language (like a star-rating system) that the average consumer can understand. But whether consumers use the resource remains up to them. Georgiou recognizes the importance of trusted recommendations from friends, family, and physicians, which can make people feel like they don't need to do any additional research. But from a quality standpoint, doing the research can ensure you go to a hospital, for example, where your risk of complications will be as low as possible.
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