CONSUMER NEWS: ‘Feedback Loop’ Helps Meet Patients’ Needs
California Health Decisions, Inc. (CHD), an independent, not- for-profit health care advocacy group, released a new report last month detailing the results of its "Consumer Feedback Loop" experiment. The "Loop" was designed to probe "consumer and physician attitudes toward the delivery of healthcare" and to recommend "thoughtful and constructive" solutions to the "interpretive distance between what the public is saying and what [health] plans, physician groups and purchasers hear." The two-year partnership between the Chevron Corporation, Hill Physicians Medical Group, Health Net and two consumer representatives who both receive health care through the three organizations, brought together focus groups of consumers and physicians. Focus group participants expressed frustration and concern over "referrals and authorizations, prescription drug coverage emergency room procedures, member services and issues surrounding the physician-patient relationship, such as choosing a physician and a perceived 'rushed' atmosphere during appointments." Based on the focus group findings, the Consumer Feedback Loop partners moved to address participants' concerns. In direct response to focus group recommendations, Hill Physicians "expanded the length of time some referrals are valid from 90 to 365 days, and established guidelines for certain 'pass-through' or automatic referrals." In addition, the group and Health Net both "revamped their education materials, providing clearer and more concise explanations of prescription drug coverage, emergency room access, and physician selection" and established a "one-call" policy to help consumers dispense of their problem with phone call. Follow-up studies on the changes indicate that patients complained less about referrals and found the "streamlined" process easier to navigate. "The Consumer Feedback Loop reveals that health plans, purchasers and physician groups can rely on consumer input as a rich resource in designing products and services, monitoring their effectiveness, and determining strategic direction," the report concludes (CHD release, 9/99).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.