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How to Assess Cost and Quality in Shopping for Health Care

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Benefits-eligible employees insured through the university are encouraged to consider the cost of health care when making choices on where and when to seek medical attention. In 2011, UNH will spend more than $50 million on health care benefits. There are ways to ensure those dollars result in the best possible outcomes for employees and the university.

“Health care is an important part of all of our lives. It is possible to be a really active player in getting the best quality care, and doing research about where and how to access health can be really beneficial,” says Josephine Porter, deputy director of the N.H. Institute on Health Policy and Practice.

When comparing same-procedure costs at N. H. hospitals, the price differences are obvious. For example, the range for arthroscopic knee surgery is $3,547 at Dartmouth Hitchcock and $9,738 at the Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont. (Use the USNH HealthCost website for specific medical services costs.) But what about the quality of care?  Does paying more—or less—assure that it’s better? How would you know?

One way is to check out the N. H. Hospital Quality Scorecard. Developed by the New Hampshire Purchasers Group on Health (NHPGH) in response to the need for more information about the cost and quality of health care, the website rates patients’ satisfaction related to safety, quality of care, and cost.

The scorecard aims to help consumers understand the variations that exist in health care quality and cost while urging individuals to make choices on hospitals and health care providers based on their own research.

Think of it as the Consumer Reports on health care.

Here’s how it works: the NHPGH website provides information on how N.H. hospitals fare in four categories—patient experience, patient safety, select clinical quality, and cost index. The information was culled from multiple sources. (Read here to see where the data came from)

Patient experience, safety and quality are rated from worse to better; cost is evaluated low to high. Blue ribbons represent the highest rated hospitals; only one ribbon is awarded per category. Not all hospitals scored a ribbon in all categories and not all information was reported.

The results can be viewed according to facility, location, cost, and highest ranking. Clinical quality assesses four medical conditions: heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and infection. Patient experience evaluates the overall experience and how highly—or not—the patient recommends the hospital.

In order of rating, Portsmouth Hospital, Parkland Medical Center in Derry, Concord Hospital and Wentworth Douglas in Dover have the highest scores. When viewed by cost, Exeter Hospital comes in as the most expensive. In five cases, patients would not recommend a particular hospital to family or friends.  

Healthy UNH has been working to educate the university community about the connection between receiving quality care and getting the most for health care dollars. Read more at https://unh.edu/healthyunh/health-care-spending. For more information on Healthy UNH, visit