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VOLUME 45 | NUMBER 6 | DECEMBER 2010


Consumers' Use of HCAHPS Ratings and Word-of-Mouth in Hospital Choice

Keywords:
Patient satisfaction; hospital choice; HCAHPS; word-of-mouth communication

Objective. To investigate the impact of the HCAHPS report of patient experiences and word-of-mouth narratives on consumers' hospital choice.

Data Sources. Online consumer research panel of U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

Study Design/Data Collection/Extraction Methods. In an experiment, 309 consumers were randomly assigned to see positive or negative information about a hospital in two modalities: HCAHPS graphs and a relative's narrative e-mail. Then they indicated their intentions to choose the hospital for elective surgery.

Principal Findings. A simple, one-paragraph e-mail and 10 HCAHPS graphs had similar impacts on consumers' hospital choice. When information was inconsistent between the HCAHPS data and e-mail narrative, one modality attenuated the other's effect on hospital choice.

Conclusions. The findings illustrate the power of anecdotal narratives, suggesting that policy makers should consider how HCAHPS data can be affected by word-of-mouth communication.

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