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Comparative Effectiveness: What's at Stake for Consumers?

The Public Policy Institute and Consumers Union, with support from Divided We Fail, sponsored a Solutions Forum on October 9, 2008, to look at comparative effectiveness from a consumer perspective. AARP’s president, Jennie Chin Hansen, and Consumers Union’s chief executive officer, Jim Guest, spoke on the importance of comparative effectiveness as a foundation for evidence on what services work best in health care. Gail Shearer, director of Health Policy Analysis, amplified the Consumers Union perspective and moderated a panel of experts, who spoke to different consumer perspectives on the issue—from consumers as citizens, representatives at the decision-making table, members of different communities, and patients. This PPI Insight on the Issues, written by Sarah Thomas, Director of the PPI Health Team, summarizes this forum.

Health policy experts point to investment in comparative effectiveness, the study of what works best in health care, as a critical component of a reformed health care delivery system. These experts have noted the lack of a scientific knowledge base to support many of the health care decisions that patients and clinicians now make. There is a good deal of consensus on the need for more research, including comparative effectiveness research that performs head-to-head comparisons on what therapies work best for patients with a given health problem. Improving the information base about what services work will improve quality, safety, and costs. Consumers play important roles in developing and using the information for health care decisions – as citizens, members of communities, participants in policy deliberations, and as patients. (8 pages)

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