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1.  Relationships between patient activation, disease-specific knowledge and health outcomes among people with diabetes; a survey study 
Background
Nowadays, patients are expected to be involved in their health care, well-informed and able to adjust their behavior to maintain a good health. Investigating patient activation and its relationships with patient characteristics and health-related outcomes will provide further insight into the gains to be expected if patients are more involved in their healthcare.
Methods
Based on claims data, 5,346 people were selected who received diabetes care in the last 12 months. They received a questionnaire including the Patient Activation Measure (PAM) and questions on patient characteristics, life style and self-management behaviors, knowledge about diabetes, healthcare utilization and own clinical values. We used bivariate analyses and regression analyses to investigate the relationships between patient characteristics, patient activation level, and health-related outcomes.
Results
Data of 1,845 (35%) people were used in the analyses. Patient activation differed depending upon several patient characteristics. Patient activation level was positively related to getting the recommended feet and eye examinations after controlling for several patient characteristics; no association was found for life-style and self-management behaviors and the other healthcare utilization measures. Those with a low patient activation level less often reported to have knowledge about diabetes and of their values on clinical indicators.
Conclusions
Among people with diabetes, patient activation level was especially related to disease-specific knowledge and less with health-related behavior and outcomes. The PAM might therefore especially be an useful instrument for clinical practice to identify patients most in need for diabetes education.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-393
PMCID: PMC4175625  PMID: 25227734
Patient activation; Diabetes mellitus; Patient characteristics; Health-related outcomes
2.  Are patients’ preferences regarding the place of treatment heard and addressed at the point of referral: an exploratory study based on observations of GP-patient consultations 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:189.
Background
Today, in several north-western European countries, patients are encouraged to choose, actively, a healthcare provider. However, patients often visit the provider that is recommended by their general practitioner (GP). The introduction of patient choice requires GPs to support patients to be involved, actively, in the choice of a healthcare provider. We aim to investigate whether policy on patient choice is reflected in practice, i.e. what the role of the patient is in their choices of healthcare providers at the point of referral and to what extent GPs’ and patients’ healthcare paths influence the role that patients play in the referral decision.
Methods
In 2007–2008, we videotaped Dutch GP-patient consultations. For this study, we selected, at random, 72 videotaped consultations between 72 patients and 39 GPs in which the patient was referred to a healthcare provider. These were analysed using an observation protocol developed by the researchers.
Results
The majority of the patients had little or no input into the choice of a healthcare provider at the point of referral by their GP. Their GPs did not support them in actively choosing a provider and the patients often agreed with the provider that the GP proposed. Patients who were referred for diagnostic purposes seem to have had even less input into their choice of a provider than patients who were referred for treatment.
Conclusions
We found that the GP chooses a healthcare provider on behalf of the patient in most consultations, even though policy on patient choice expects from patients that they choose, actively, a provider. On the one hand, this could indicate that the policy needs adjustments. On the other hand, adjustments may be needed to practice. For instance, GPs could help patients to make an active choice of provider. However, certain patients prefer to let their GP decide as their agent. Even then, GPs need to know patients’ preferences, because in a principal-agent relationship, it is necessary that the agent is fully informed about the principal’s preferences.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-14-189
PMCID: PMC4029442  PMID: 24325155
Choice behaviour; Patient freedom of choice laws; Healthcare providers; Healthcare reform; Communication; General practitioners; Referral; Physicians’ role
3.  Overall scores as an alternative to global ratings in patient experience surveys; a comparison of four methods 
Background
Global ratings of healthcare by patients are a popular way of summarizing patients’ experiences. Summary scores can be used for comparing healthcare provider performance and provider rankings. As an alternative, overall scores from actual patient experiences can be constructed as summary scores. This paper addresses the statistical and practical characteristics of overall scores as an alternative to a global rating in summarizing patient survey results.
Methods
Data from a 2010 patient experience survey for approximately 12,000 nursing home residents (7.5% of all Dutch nursing home residents at the time) from 464 nursing homes in the Netherlands (25% of the Dutch nursing homes) was used. Data was collected through specifically designed standardized interview surveys. The respondents’ scores for 15 established quality indicators (or composites) for nursing home care were used to calculate overall scores for each nursing home, using four different strategies. The characteristics of the overall scores were compared against each other and with the respondents’ global rating.
Results
The individual indicators showed stronger associations with each of the four overall strategies than with the global ratings. Furthermore, the dispersion of the overall scores across nursing homes was greater. Differences between overall scores appeared limited.
Conclusions
Overall scores proved more valid than global ratings as a summary of the indicator scores, and also showed more pronounced differences between nursing homes. Because of the limited statistical differences between the strategies, and for practical reasons, a straightforward averaging of quality indicator scores may be preferred as an overall score.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-479
PMCID: PMC3842791  PMID: 24245726
Quality of care; Composite measures; Nursing home; Consumer information
4.  Improving cancer patient care: development of a generic cancer consumer quality index questionnaire for cancer patients 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:203.
Background
To develop a Consumer Quality Index (CQI) Cancer Care questionnaire for measuring experiences with hospital care of patients with different types of cancer.
Methods
We derived quality aspects from focus group discussions, existing questionnaires and literature. We developed an experience questionnaire and sent it to 1,498 Dutch cancer patients. Another questionnaire measuring the importance of the quality aspects was sent to 600 cancer patients. Data were psychometrically analysed.
Results
The response to the experience questionnaire was 50 percent. Psychometric analysis revealed 12 reliable scales. Patients rated rapid and adequate referral, rapid start of the treatment after diagnosis, enough information and confidence in the healthcare professionals as most important themes. Hospitals received high scores for skills and cooperation of healthcare professionals and a patient-centered approach by doctors; and low scores for psychosocial guidance and information at completion of the treatment.
Conclusions
The CQI Cancer Care questionnaire is a valuable tool for the evaluation of the quality of cancer care from the patient’s perspective. Large scale implementation is necessary to determine the discriminatory powers of the questionnaire and may enable healthcare providers to improve the quality of cancer care. Preliminary results indicate that hospitals could improve their psychosocial guidance and information provision.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-203
PMCID: PMC3648393  PMID: 23617741
Consumer Quality Index (CQI); Focus groups; Healthcare evaluation; Healthcare quality; Patient experience; Quality indicators
5.  Health literacy of Dutch adults: a cross sectional survey 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:179.
Background
Relatively little knowledge is available to date about health literacy among the general population in Europe. It is important to gain insights into health literacy competences among the general population, as this might contribute to more effective health promotion and help clarify socio-economic disparities in health. This paper is part of the European Health Literacy Survey (HLS-EU). It aims to add to the body of theoretical knowledge about health literacy by measuring perceived difficulties with health information in various domains of health, looking at a number of competences. The definition and measure of health literacy is still topic of debate and hardly any instruments are available that are applicable for the general population. The objectives were to obtain an initial measure of health literacy in a sample of the general population in the Netherlands and to relate this measure to education, income, perceived social status, age, and sex.
Methods
The HLS-EU questionnaire was administered face-to-face in a sample of 925 Dutch adults, during July 2011. Perceived difficulties with the health literacy competences for accessing, understanding, appraising and applying information were measured within the domains of healthcare, disease prevention and health promotion. Multiple linear regression analyses were applied to explore the associations between health literacy competences and education, income, perceived social status, age, and sex.
Results
Perceived difficulties with health information and their association with demographic and socio-economic variables vary according to the competence and health domain addressed. Having a low level of education or a low perceived social status or being male were consistently found to be significantly related to relatively low health literacy scores, mainly for accessing and understanding health information.
Conclusions
Perceived difficulties with health information vary between competences and domains of health. Health literacy competences are associated with indicators of socio-economic position and with the domain in which health information is provided.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-179
PMCID: PMC3599856  PMID: 23445541
Health literacy; Socio-economic position; General population; Netherlands
6.  Free choice of healthcare providers in the Netherlands is both a goal in itself and a precondition: modelling the policy assumptions underlying the promotion of patient choice through documentary analysis and interviews 
Background
In the Netherlands in 2006, a health insurance system reform took place in which regulated competition between insurers and providers is key. In this context, the government placed greater emphasis on patients being able to choose health insurers and providers as a precondition for competition. Patient choice became an instrument instead of solely a goal in itself. In the current study, we investigated the concept of ‘patient choice’ of healthcare providers, as postulated in the supporting documentation for this reform, because we wanted to try to understand the assumptions policy makers had regarding patient choice of healthcare providers.
Methods
We searched policy documents for assumptions made by policy makers about patient choice of healthcare providers that underlie the health insurance system reform. Additionally, we held interviews with people who were involved in or closely followed the reform.
Results
Our study shows that the government paid much more attention to the instrumental goal of patient choice. Patients are assumed to be able to choose a provider rationally if a number of conditions are satisfied, e.g. the availability of enough comparative information. To help ensure those conditions were met, the Dutch government and other parties implemented a variety of supporting instruments.
Conclusions
Various instruments have been put in place to ensure that patients can act as consumers on the healthcare market. Much less attention has been paid to the willingness and ability of patients to choose, i.e. choice as a value. There was also relatively little attention paid to the consequences on equity of outcomes if some patient groups are less inclined or able to choose actively.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-441
PMCID: PMC3548770  PMID: 23206601
Choice behavior; Patients; Patient satisfaction; Quality of healthcare; Healthcare reform; Netherlands
7.  Understanding and using comparative healthcare information; the effect of the amount of information and consumer characteristics and skills 
Background
Consumers are increasingly exposed to comparative healthcare information (information about the quality of different healthcare providers). Partly because of its complexity, the use of this information has been limited. The objective of this study was to examine how the amount of presented information influences the comprehension and use of comparative healthcare information when important consumer characteristics and skills are taken into account.
Methods
In this randomized controlled experiment, comparative information on total hip or knee surgery was used as a test case. An online survey was distributed among 800 members of the NIVEL Insurants Panel and 76 hip- or knee surgery patients. Participants were assigned to one of four subgroups, who were shown 3, 7, 11 or 15 quality aspects of three hospitals. We conducted Kruskall-Wallis tests, Chi-square tests and hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses to examine relationships between the amount of information and consumer characteristics and skills (literacy, numeracy, active choice behaviour) on one hand, and outcome measures related to effectively using information (comprehension, perceived usefulness of information, hospital choice, ease of making a choice) on the other hand.
Results
414 people (47%) participated. Regression analysis showed that the amount of information slightly influenced the comprehension and the perceived usefulness of comparative healthcare information. It did not affect consumers’ hospital choice and ease of making this choice. Consumer characteristics (especially age) and skills (especially literacy) were the most important factors affecting the comprehension of information and the ease of making a hospital choice. For the perceived usefulness of comparative information, active choice behaviour was the most influencing factor.
Conclusion
The effects of the amount of information were not unambiguous. It remains unclear what the ideal amount of quality information to be presented would be. Reducing the amount of information will probably not automatically result in more effective use of comparative healthcare information by consumers. More important, consumer characteristics and skills appeared to be more influential factors contributing to information comprehension and use. Consequently, we would suggest that more emphasis on improving consumers’ skills is needed to enhance the use of comparative healthcare information.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-12-101
PMCID: PMC3483238  PMID: 22958295
Healthcare consumers; Comparative healthcare information; Amount of information; Sociodemographic characteristics; Literacy; Numeracy
8.  Determinants of patient choice of healthcare providers: a scoping review 
Background
In several northwest European countries, a demand-driven healthcare system has been implemented that stresses the importance of patient healthcare provider choice. In this study, we are conducting a scoping review aiming to map out what is known about the determinants of patient choice of a wide range of healthcare providers. As far as we know, not many studies are currently available that attempt to draw a general picture of how patients choose a healthcare provider and of the status of research on this subject. This study is therefore a valuable contribution to the growing amount of literature about patient choice.
Methods
We carried out a specific type of literature review known as a scoping review. Scoping reviews try to examine the breadth of knowledge that is available about a particular topic and therefore do not make selections or apply quality constraints. Firstly, we defined our research questions and searched the literature in Embase, Medline and PubMed. Secondly, we selected the literature, and finally we analysed and summarized the information.
Results
Our review shows that patients’ choices are determined by a complex interplay between patient and provider characteristics. A variety of patient characteristics determines whether patients make choices, are willing and able to choose, and how they choose. Patients take account of a variety of structural, process and outcome characteristics of providers, differing in the relative importance they attach to these characteristics.
Conclusions
There is no such thing as the typical patient: different patients make different choices in different situations. Comparative information seems to have a relatively limited influence on the choices made by many patients and patients base their decisions on a variety of provider characteristics instead of solely on outcome characteristics. The assumptions made in health policy about patient choice may therefore be an oversimplification of reality. Several knowledge gaps were identified that need follow-up research.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-272
PMCID: PMC3502383  PMID: 22913549
Choice behavior; Patient freedom of choice laws; Patient satisfaction; Healthcare providers; Quality indicators; Quality of healthcare; Healthcare reform; Review literature
9.  Educational inequalities in patient-centred care: patients' preferences and experiences 
Background
Educational attainment is strongly related to specific health outcomes. The pathway in which individual patient-provider interactions contribute to (re)producing these inequalities has yet to be studied. In this article, the focus is on differences between less and more highly educated patients in their preferences for and experiences with patient-centred care., e.g. shared decision making, receiving understandable explanations and being able to ask questions.
Methods
Data are derived from several Consumer Quality-index (CQ-index) studies. The CQ-index is a family of standardized instruments which are used in the Netherlands to measure quality of care from the patient’s perspective.
Results
The educational level of patients is directly related to the degree of importance patients attribute to specific aspects of patient-centred care. It has a minor influence on the experienced level of shared decision making, but not on experiences regarding other aspects of patient-centred care.
Conclusions
All patients regard patient-centred care as important and report positive experiences. However, there is a discrepancy between patient preferences for patient-centred care on one hand and the care received on the other. Less educated patients might receive ‘too much’, and more highly educated patients ‘too little’ in the domains of communication, information and shared decision making.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-261
PMCID: PMC3467160  PMID: 22900589
Patient preferences; Patient experiences; Communication; Information; Shared decision making; Education; Inequalities; Patient-centred care
10.  Measuring patient activation in the Netherlands: translation and validation of the American short form Patient Activation Measure (PAM13) 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:577.
Background
The American short form Patient Activation Measure (PAM) is a 13-item instrument which assesses patient (or consumer) self-reported knowledge, skills and confidence for self-management of one’s health or chronic condition. In this study the PAM was translated into a Dutch version; psychometric properties of the Dutch version were established and the instrument was validated in a panel of chronically ill patients.
Methods
The translation was done according to WHO guidelines. The PAM 13-Dutch was sent to 4178 members of the Dutch National Panel of people with Chronic illness or Disability (NPCD) in April 2010 (study A) and again to a sub sample of this group (N = 973) in June 2010 (study B). Internal consistency, test-retest reliability and cross-validation with the SBSQ-D (a measure for Health literacy) were computed. The Dutch results were compared to similar Danish and American data.
Results
The psychometric properties of the PAM 13-Dutch were generally good. The level of internal consistency is good (α = 0.88) and item-rest correlations are moderate to strong. The Dutch mean PAM score (61.3) is comparable to the American (61.9) and lower than the Danish (64.2). The test-retest reliability was moderate. The association with Health literacy was weak to moderate.
Conclusions
The PAM-13 Dutch is a reliable instrument to measure patient activation. More research is needed into the validity of the Patient Activation Measure, especially with respect to a more comprehensive measure of Health literacy.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-577
PMCID: PMC3490810  PMID: 22849664
11.  The discriminative power of patient experience surveys 
Background
Comparisons of patient experiences between providers are increasingly used as an index of performance. The present study describes the ability of patient experience surveys to discriminate between healthcare providers for various patient groups and quality aspects, and reports the sample sizes required for reliable (comparisons of) provider scores.
Method
The consumer quality index is a family of surveys that are tailored to specific patient groups. Data was used from patients who underwent cataract surgery, patients who underwent hip or knee surgery, patients suffering from spinal disc herniation and patients suffering from varicose veins. Multi-level regression models were fitted to assess the proportion of variance in patient experiences that is attributable to providers for various quality aspects.
Results
The proportion of variance in patient experiences that is attributable to providers varied from 0.001 to 0.054. The required sample size for reliable estimates at the provider level varied from 41 to 1967 per provider. Differences in discriminative power between patient groups and/or quality aspects were inconsistent, with one exception: for all groups, the discriminative power of experiences regarding change in physical functioning was particularly limited.
Conclusions
From a statistical point of view, the discriminative power appears limited. The sample sizes required for reliable estimates are often substantial and deserve careful consideration when setting up measurements. Future research should evaluate the discriminative power by validating differences between providers in patient experiences with other indices and should explore other, more sensitive measures of patient experiences regarding treatment-related changes in physical functioning.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-332
PMCID: PMC3292538  PMID: 22145965
12.  Different patient subgroup, different ranking? Which quality indicators do patients find important when choosing a hospital for hip- or knee arthroplasty? 
Background
Patients are increasingly expected to become active, critical consumers in healthcare. They can use comparative healthcare information presented on websites to make informed choices for healthcare providers. However, the use of this information has been limited so far. An obstacle can be that the information is not perceived as relevant by patients. Presenting only the most important quality indicators might improve the usefulness of this information. The aim of this study was to explore which quality indicators different subgroups of patients find important when choosing a hospital for total hip arthroplasty (THA) or total knee arthroplasty (TKA).
Methods
In this explorative, cross-sectional study, questionnaires were distributed to 265 patients who underwent or had to undergo THA/TKA. Participants were asked to rank the importance of three types of quality indicators: patient experience indicators, clinical performance indicators, and indicators about hospital services. We used random effects regression analyses to assess the relative importance of the indicators in different subgroups of patients.
Results
110 patients (response rate 41.5%) who underwent or had to undergo THA/TKA participated. Conduct of doctors, the presence of procedures to prevent adverse effects of thrombosis and information about the specialist area of orthopaedists were the most important patient experience indicator, clinical performance indicator and indicator about hospital services, respectively. We found a few differences between patient subgroups in the importance attached to the quality indicators.
Conclusions
This study provides a first insight into which quality indicators patients find important when choosing a hospital for THA/TKA, and shows that subgroups of patients differ in the value they attach to these indicators. More extended research is needed to establish the indicators that should at least be presented in succinct overviews of comparative healthcare information for patients choosing a hospital for THA/TKA.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-299
PMCID: PMC3268112  PMID: 22050686
13.  A Comparison of a Postal Survey and Mixed-Mode Survey Using a Questionnaire on Patients’ Experiences With Breast Care 
Background
The Internet is increasingly considered to be an efficient medium for assessing the quality of health care seen from the patients’ perspective. Potential benefits of Internet surveys such as time efficiency, reduced effort, and lower costs should be balanced against potential weaknesses such as low response rates and accessibility for only a subset of potential participants. Combining an Internet questionnaire with a traditional paper follow-up questionnaire (mixed-mode survey) can possibly compensate for these weaknesses and provide an alternative to a postal survey.
Objective
To examine whether there are differences between a mixed-mode survey and a postal survey in terms of respondent characteristics, response rate and time, quality of data, costs, and global ratings of health care or health care providers (general practitioner, hospital care in the diagnostic phase, surgeon, nurses, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and hospital care in general).
Methods
Differences between the two surveys were examined in a sample of breast care patients using the Consumer Quality Index Breast Care questionnaire. We selected 800 breast care patients from the reimbursement files of Dutch health insurance companies. We asked 400 patients to fill out the questionnaire online followed by a paper reminder (mixed-mode survey) and 400 patients, matched by age and gender, received the questionnaire by mail only (postal survey). Both groups received three reminders.
Results
The respondents to the two surveys did not differ in age, gender, level of education, or self-reported physical and psychological health (all Ps > .05). In the postal survey, the questionnaires were returned 20 days earlier than in the mixed-mode survey (median 12 and 32 days, respectively; P < .001), whereas the response rate did not differ significantly (256/400, 64.0% versus 242/400, 60.5%, respectively; P = .30). The costs were lower for the mixed-mode survey (€2 per questionnaire). Moreover, there were fewer missing items (3.4% versus 4.4%, P = .002) and fewer invalid answers (3.2% versus 6.2%, P < .001) in the mixed-mode survey than in the postal survey. The answers of the two respondent groups on the global ratings did not differ. Within the mixed-mode survey, 52.9% (128/242) of the respondents filled out the questionnaire online. Respondents who filled out the questionnaire online were significantly younger (P < .001), were more often highly educated (P = .002), and reported better psychological health (P = .02) than respondents who filled out the paper questionnaire. Respondents to the paper questionnaire rated the nurses significantly more positively than respondents to the online questionnaire (score 9.2 versus 8.4, respectively; χ2 1 = 5.6).
Conclusions
Mixed-mode surveys are an alternative method to postal surveys that yield comparable response rates and groups of respondents, at lower costs. Moreover, quality of health care was not rated differently by respondents to the mixed-mode or postal survey. Researchers should consider using mixed-mode surveys instead of postal surveys, especially when investigating younger or more highly educated populations.
doi:10.2196/jmir.1241
PMCID: PMC3222165  PMID: 21946048
Data collection; health care quality; consumer satisfaction; breast cancer; patient preferences; health care quality indicator
14.  An International Comparison of Web-based Reporting About Health Care Quality: Content Analysis 
Background
On more and more websites, consumers are provided with public reports about health care. This move toward provision of more comparative information has resulted in different information types being published that often contain contradictory information.
Objective
The objective was to assess the current state of the art in the presentation of online comparative health care information and to compare how the integration of different information types is dealt with on websites. The content analysis was performed in order to provide website managers and Internet researchers with a resource of knowledge about presentation formats being applied internationally.
Methods
A Web search was used to identify websites that contained comparative health care information. The websites were systematically examined to assess how three different types of information (provider characteristics and services, performance indicators, and health care user experience) were presented to consumers. Furthermore, a short survey was disseminated to the reviewed websites to assess how the presentation formats were selected.
Results
We reviewed 42 websites from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Sweden. We found the most common ways to integrate different information types were the two extreme options: no integration at all (on 36% of the websites) and high levels of integration in single tables on 41% of the websites). Nearly 70% of the websites offered drill down paths to more detailed information. Diverse presentation approaches were used to display comparative health care information on the Internet. Numbers were used on the majority of websites (88%) to display comparative information.
Conclusions
Currently, approaches to the presentation of comparative health care information do not seem to be systematically selected. It seems important, however, that website managers become aware of the complexities inherent in comparative information when they release information on the Web. Important complexities to pay attention to are the use of numbers, the display of contradictory information, and the extent of variation among attributes and attribute levels. As for the integration of different information types, it remains unclear which presentation approaches are preferable. Our study provides a good starting point for Internet research to further address the question of how different types of information can be more effectively presented to consumers.
doi:10.2196/jmir.1191
PMCID: PMC2885782  PMID: 20439252
Consumer health information; information display; decision making; Internet; international comparison; content analysis
15.  The Dutch Consumer Quality Index: an example of stakeholder involvement in indicator development 
Background
Like in several other Western countries, in the Dutch health care system regulated competition has been introduced. In order to make this work, comparable information is required about the performance of health care providers in terms of effectiveness, safety and patient experiences. Without further coordination, external actors will all try to force health care providers to be transparent. For health care providers this might result in a situation in which they have to deliver data for several sets of indicators, defined by different actors. Therefore, in the Netherlands an effort is made to define national sets of performance indicators and related measuring instruments. In this article, the following questions are addressed, using patient experiences as an example:
- When and how are stakeholders involved in the development of indicators and instruments that measure the patients' experiences with health care providers?
- Does this involvement lead to indicators and instruments that match stakeholders' information needs?
Discussion
The Dutch experiences show that it is possible to implement national indicator sets and to reach consensus about what needs to be measured. Preliminary evaluations show that for health care providers and health insurers the benefits of standardization outweigh the possible loss of tailor-made information. However, it has also become clear that particular attention should be given to the participation of patient/consumer organisations.
Summary
Stakeholder involvement is complex and time-consuming. However, it is the only way to balance the information needs of all the parties that ask for and benefit from transparency, without frustrating the health care system.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-88
PMCID: PMC2864255  PMID: 20370925
16.  How do healthcare consumers process and evaluate comparative healthcare information? A qualitative study using cognitive interviews 
BMC Public Health  2009;9:423.
Background
To date, online public healthcare reports have not been effectively used by consumers. Therefore, we qualitatively examined how healthcare consumers process and evaluate comparative healthcare information on the Internet.
Methods
Using semi-structured cognitive interviews, interviewees (n = 20) were asked to think aloud and answer questions, as they were prompted with three Dutch web pages providing comparative healthcare information.
Results
We identified twelve themes from consumers' thoughts and evaluations. These themes were categorized under four important areas of interest: (1) a response to the design; (2) a response to the information content; (3) the use of the information, and (4) the purpose of the information.
Conclusion
Several barriers to an effective use of comparative healthcare information were identified, such as too much information and the ambiguity of terms presented on websites. Particularly important for future research is the question of how comparative healthcare information can be integrated with alternative information, such as patient reviews on the Internet. Furthermore, the readability of quality of care concepts is an issue that needs further attention, both from websites and communication experts.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-423
PMCID: PMC2785792  PMID: 19930564
17.  Dutch healthcare reform: did it result in performance improvement of health plans? A comparison of consumer experiences over time 
Background
Many countries have introduced elements of managed competition in their healthcare system with the aim to accomplish more efficient and demand-driven health care. Simultaneously, generating and reporting of comparative healthcare information has become an important quality-improvement instrument. We examined whether the introduction of managed competition in the Dutch healthcare system along with public reporting of quality information was associated with performance improvement in health plans.
Methods
Experiences of consumers with their health plan were measured in four consecutive years (2005-2008) using the CQI® health plan instrument 'Experiences with Healthcare and Health Insurer'. Data were available of 13,819 respondents (response = 45%) of 30 health plans in 2005, of 8,266 respondents (response = 39%) of 32 health plans in 2006, of 8,088 respondents (response = 34%) of 32 health plans in 2007, and of 7,183 respondents (response = 31%) of 32 health plans in 2008. We performed multilevel regression analyses with three levels: respondent, health plan and year of measurement. Per year and per quality aspect, we estimated health plan means while adjusting for consumers' age, education and self-reported health status. We tested for linear and quadratic time effects using chi-squares.
Results
The overall performance of health plans increased significantly from 2005 to 2008 on four quality aspects. For three other aspects, we found that the overall performance first declined and then increased from 2006 to 2008, but the performance in 2008 was not better than in 2005. The overall performance of health plans did not improve more often for quality aspects that were identified as important areas of improvement in the first year of measurement. On six out of seven aspects, the performance of health plans that scored below average in 2005 increased more than the performance of health plans that scored average and/or above average in that year.
Conclusion
We found mixed results concerning the effects of managed competition on the performance of health plans. To determine whether managed competition in the healthcare system leads to quality improvement in health plans, it is important to examine whether and for what reasons health plans initiate improvement efforts.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-167
PMCID: PMC2761896  PMID: 19761580
18.  The Relationship Between Health, Education, and Health Literacy: Results From the Dutch Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey 
Journal of Health Communication  2013;18(Suppl 1):172-184.
Health literacy has been put forward as a potential mechanism explaining the well-documented relationship between education and health. However, little empirical research has been undertaken to explore this hypothesis. The present study aims to study whether health literacy could be a pathway by which level of education affects health status. Health literacy was measured by the Health Activities and Literacy Scale, using data from a subsample of 5,136 adults between the ages of 25 and 65 years, gathered within the context of the 2007 Dutch Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey. Linear regression analyses were used in separate models to estimate the extent to which health literacy mediates educational disparities in self-reported general health, physical health status, and mental health status as measured by the Short Form-12. Health literacy was found to partially mediate the association between low education and low self-reported health status. As such, improving health literacy may be a useful strategy for reducing disparities in health related to education, as health literacy appears to play a role in explaining the underlying mechanism driving the relationship between low level of education and poor health.
doi:10.1080/10810730.2013.825668
PMCID: PMC3814618  PMID: 24093354

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