Through blogs and comments, patients and experts explore what it takes to find good health care and make the most of it.

Our Shopping Problem

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Apparently, borrowers who obtained a home loan in the last five years spent five hours researching a mortgage, half the amount of time they spent researching a car and the same amount of time they spent researching a vacation, according to a study reported in The New York Times on Saturday.

Given the number of folks that signed up for all those risky home financing options and according to the survey sponsors, this is apparently not enough time for people to go through the steps necessary to make sure they are getting the best mortgage.

Contrast this with the fact that only 5-10 percent of us have even considered using objective information to make sure we are choosing the best doctor or hospital or health plan, if we have a choice among them.

It is as though the shopping is a process that we simply don't apply to our decisions about health care providers. Part of the problem is, of course, that despite consistent media coverage, only about one-third of us understand that the quality of health care varies widely. And then there is that pesky problem of the lack of relevant and accessible comparable information on any of these topics, especially on physicians, meaning that if we want to do the research, trustworthy information often simply doesn't exist. But even so, we tend to trust word-of-mouth recommendations over available objective information.

I was especially bemused by one of the comments in response to the Times blog: Why is this a surprise to anyone? You USE a car. You USE a house. That's what you spend the time shopping for. You don't USE a mortgage. The mortgage or the car financing is just the means to get it. You can't put the top down on the mortgage and drive it around.

We USE health care. But it seems that many of us have yet to approach obtaining it with the careful, critical eye we use to get the best deal on a trip to Disney World.

More Blog Posts by Jessie Gruman

author bio

Jessie C. Gruman, PhD, was founder and president of the Center for Advancing Health from 1992 until her death in July 2014. Her experiences as a patient — having been diagnosed with five life-threatening illnesses — informed her perspective as an author, advocate and lead contributor to the Prepared Patient Blog. Her book, AfterShock, helps patients and caregivers navigate their way through the health care system following a serious or life-threatening diagnosis. The free app, AfterShock: Facing a Serious Diagnosis, offers a pocket guide based on the book. | More about Jessie Gruman


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Health Care Cost   Find Good Health Care   Inside Healthcare   Jessie Gruman  


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Star says
May 17, 2010 at 11:31 AM

I spend hours trying to check doctors. We have (in my opinion) pretty mediocre doctors in AZ compared with Washington DC, but we do have a good way to check their records online with our medical board. I always do this. As for hospitals, we have issues with all within reach. At the moment, I have only one doctor--an eye doctor. Everyone else has either fired me or I did not consider them compatible. I am raked over the coals on the NYT "Well" blog for being a pain in the rear for this, an abuser of the ER, and all-round creep. But finding a doctor who treats me with respect, lets me voice an opinion, and inspires trust and confidence is devilishly hard. Even checking does not help--my last mammo was iffy, so I went to a different center for followup. Asked in advance who would read it. Got three names, they checked out, no suits or complaints. When I got the report, a fourth doctor had read it--he had paid two judgments for bad calls. There ensued a hellish bunch of exchanges--and I don't even know where to go next for a mammogram. This is all a gamble.