Two reports examine the types of tools available to consumers making health care decisions, including online cost comparison tools. They explore the effectiveness of these tools and offer strategies for promoting their widespread use.
In response to the trend of increasing consumer involvement in health care decision-making, this 2006 report, Consumers in Health Care: Creating Decision-Support Tools That Work, examines the various forms and functions of tools available to help consumers make more informed choices. It summarizes evidence regarding the effectiveness of these tools, and offers possible strategies for overcoming limitations to their widespread use.
The report outlines key barriers that limit consumers’ use of these tools and suggests practical steps to address those barriers by improving the design, content, format, and distribution of information tools.
A related report by Forrester Research, Health Care Cost Comparison Tools: A Market Under Construction, examines the potential for using online tools to compare the costs of health products and services. Through an analysis of survey data, and interviews with nine health plans and vendors, it finds limited availability and functionality of online cost comparison tools. But while these tools do not go far enough to support comparison shopping for medical care, employer demands and the growth of consumer-directed health plans indicate this situation will likely change.