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An Evening with the Director of Consumer Reports Health Ratings

By IHI Open School | Wednesday, May 15, 2013
By Karri Benjamin, MBA, Portland State University (PSU) & Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) IHI Open School Chapter

On May 6th, 2013, over 90 participants gathered for “An Evening with John Santa,” hosted by the PSU & OHSU IHI Open School Chapter and its community partner, We Can Do Better. The gathering took place at PSU with a live webcast that brought together health professions students from PSU & OHSU, community members, health services providers, and journalists from across Oregon and the United States. The evening was focused on learning about health comparisons with John Santa, MD, MPH, Director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center.

At the event, Dr. Santa provided an excellent overview of how Consumer Reports does comparisons and why comparisons are so important to consumers. Attendees witnessed how much variation there is in the health care system and how the industry has struggled to improve, even when clearly unsafe practices are occurring. Dr. Santa discussed overuse and waste in the health care system, especially in the context of a national campaign called Choosing Wisely, which strives to explain overuse and waste to both doctors and consumers. He explained that this requires a unique approach because telling consumers what not to do is a very different task than telling them what to do.

Dr. Santa also described another terrific and seemingly simple campaign to engage consumers around these issues called OpenNotes. This campaign is giving patients access to their clinical/chart notes that providers are required to write but not to share. A pilot study found that nearly 100 percent of participating patients would like this service, and 70–80 percent of providers are willing to participate. Dr. Santa is working with Oregon’s large health systems to help them embrace this approach in the near future.

Dr. Santa and Liz Baxter, MPH, Executive Director of We Can Do Better, answered questions from the audience in response to the topics discussed and how they relate to Oregon’s health care system. Both Dr. Santa and Baxter are graduates of the PSU Health Management and Policy program. Dr. Santa, who graduated in 2005, mentioned the importance of the mentorship he received from Sherril Gelmon, DrPH, chair of the Public Administration Division.

A video recording of the event is available to view here.
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