Knowledge Is Power: Here's One Way RWJF Wants to Empower Healthcare Consumers

You wouldn’t think of trying out a new restaurant without first checking its Yelp review, would you? So, wouldn’t it be nice if you could read reviews of your local healthcare providers before trying them out? The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation thinks so and, boy, are they right. It's hard to introduce more competitive pressures to the healthcare sector if consumers don't have the information they need to shop around for the best providers. 

Also, it's downright weird that a $3 trillion sector could be so insulated from advances in consumer empowerment that have transformed one industry after another. 

“It is often easier for Americans to get restaurant reviews than to get reliable and easy-to-understand information about the care their doctors provide,” said Susan Mende, BSN, MPH, senior program officer at RWJF.

Of course, various online crowdsourcing efforts exist that aim to rate and review doctors and other healthcare providers. These include HeatlhGrades, RateMDs, and Vital Signs. But these sites have been problematic for various reasons, as crowdsourced sites often area, and it remains difficult to get quality analysis of healthcare providers. 

Enter the Doctor Project, which RWJF launched back in March with a $1.3 million pledge to make healthcare information more accessible in ten communities across the country, building on a pilot initiative that were part of RWJF's Aligning Forces for Quality program. Last month, the foundation announced which communities will take part.

Participants will get the resources that will help them develop reports on the quality of healthcare available locally—and eventually, this information will be used to develop websites that can serve as go-to resources for the community. In an interesting partnership move, communities will publish the results of their reports in special issues of Consumer Reports.

The organizations selected to participate include Common Table Health Alliance in Memphis, TN; the Integrated Healthcare Association in California; Massachusetts Health Quality Partners; and The Health Collaborative of Cincinnati, OH.

“Health care delivery is a local issue, and producing the reports that are at the core of the Doctor Project will require key players in local communities to work together,” said Jim Chase, president of MN Community Measurement. “The regional health collaboratives announced today have long track records of making this happen—successfully bringing the people who give care, get care and pay for care together to address pressing health care issues in their communities.”