The Growth Channel

How will consumers define value?


Madhavi Kasinadhuni, Marketing and Planning Leadership Council

Online tools such as Healthcare Bluebook and ZocDoc evaluate different aspects of care, but which matter most to consumers? Emerging interactive data visualization tools like the site Optimal Hospital, winner of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Hospital Price Transparency Challenge, might help us find out.

Optimal Hospital is designed to help consumers make sense out of publically available data. Each hospital is given an overall score based on metrics across five preference categories. The site draws from eight different CMS data sets including charge data, HACs, and HCAHPS to calculate scores. 

What makes the data visualization powerful is that users are able to view hospital scores based on their personal definitions of value by adjusting the weighting of each of five categories:

  • Care: measures overall quality of care using indicators such as hospital acquired infections, blood clots after surgery, and falls
  • Price: cumulative variance between cost of each DRG in the hospital to the average for the DRG (or APC) cost across the nation
  • Environment: measures hospital environment including cleanliness and comfort
  • Communication: measures hospital success in communication to their patients including discharge information and instructions for how to use medications
  • Service: measures hospital success in helping their patients using indicators such as staff responsiveness and pain management


Optimal Hospital is great first step towards translating data into tools that empower healthcare consumers, but there are still several challenges to overcome before data visualization tools are consumer-ready.

For example the amount of information—six scores, the map, over a dozen hospitals in the display and the list of top hospitals—would overwhelm the average consumer. It can also be confusing—consumers might interpret the factor weights to be preference filters (similar to popular shopping sites like Zappos and Amazon) instead of a way to adjust their relative importance.

Still, most tools available today focus on one or two preferences and what Optimal Hospital gets right is that consumers care about more than just price or quality. And while it’s not clear which factors different consumer groups will value most yet, as more decision-making tools gain traction in the market hospitals should be asking themselves:

  • What decision-making tools are popular in our market?
  • What consumer preferences are reflected in metrics on our performance dashboard? What’s missing?
  • Does our value proposition reach beyond quality and technology?
  • Are we segmenting our target consumers by preferences?
  • Do marketing messages emphasize diverse consumer preferences?
  • Are consumer preferences addressed in our strategic plan?

More from the Marketing and Planning Leadership Council

Interested in learning more about consumer preferences? Look for results from our consumer preferences for primary care providers survey in January 2014 and subscribe to email alerts to get the latest updates from The Growth Channel.