The study measured the relative influence of the following 3 factors in consumers' choice of hospitals: (1) cost, (2) out-of-pocket cost, and (3) safety as measured by Leapfrog Hospital Safety Score letter grade.
Two hospital-choice questions regarding a hypothetical medical procedure were administered to 2357 online respondents. In question 1, respondents were assigned a scenario in which hospital 1 grade (A through D), hospital 2 grade (B through F), and hospital 2 total cost (3 levels) were randomly varied across respondents. In all cases, hospital 2 had a lower safety grade than hospital 1, and hospital 1 cost was held constant. In question 2, scenarios varied out-of-pocket cost rather than total cost. Demographic characteristics, income level, health status, health literacy, and opinions about value were also measured.
On average, 94% and 88% of the respondents chose the safer hospital in questions 1 and 2, respectively. In all but 1 of 30 possible scenarios, where hospital 2 cost the individual $1000 less and was rated a B whereas hospital 1 was rated an A, respondents chose the safer hospital. Higher incomes, higher health literacy, and being female were associated with a stronger preference for hospital 1 (safer). There was a small effect suggesting that approximately 4% of the respondents selected a higher-cost hospital despite lower safety, but it was outweighed by predominant selections of the safer hospital.
When shown Hospital Safety Score and cost information, consumers chose safer hospitals in 97% of cost and safety scenarios.