The San Francisco Business Times notes the infrequent use of California’s new hospital rating site for consumers. I’m not surprised that usage is low, and I think the Business Times draws the wrong conclusions.
As I’ve said before, I think that simpler is better when it comes to organizing health information for the general public. The Times, and at least one of its interviewees, thinks otherwise. They suggest that simplicity may be one reason why the site isn’t being used.
I disagree. I think it isn’t being used because people don’t know it’s there – and because, as I’ve also suggested before, it’s not part of a larger site that addresses the many different contexts within which people will search for health information. Simplicity of organization and presentation, however, is what will make it comfortable and usable for people once they do find it.
Digging up this kind of health information isn’t like conducting a straightforward Google search (a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed at Google). People don’t go looking for comparative data on hospital costs, because the idea itself hasn’t occurred to them. You have to bring it to where they are – metaphorically (in their learning process) and literally (in their browsing habits.)
That’s why I’ve been promoting the idea of ‘context-driven health data’ for all parties: consumers, doctors, employers, and administrators. The Times also mentioned Vimo.com, which is an interesting start-up designed along just those lines.
They’re in an early stage of development and have a lot of work to do. If they thrive, however, they’ll be going head to head against Steve Case’s Revolution Health. That could be interesting to watch.