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Shopping for Healthcare

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A new Deloitte report shows the extent to which a consumer sensibility has seeped into the way Americans deal with the healthcare system. If actively engaged patients were (for all the buzz about them) more the exception than the rule a decade ago, they're now a mainstream phenomenon.

One sign of this: 16 percent of respondents to the Deloitte polling (fielded last October) said they've switched physicians, with two-thirds of them saying they did so "because they were dissatisfied with the service they received." Thirty percent compared doctors before picking one in the past 12 months. Many people would like to engage in a certain amount of do-it-yourself care: 64 percent said they'd be interested in at-home devices "that could help them know what to do, and when, to improve their health or treat a health condition."

One hopes they won't attempt to perform surgery on themselves. But the survey finds many people do try to make an informed choice when they need a hospital. Fifteen percent said they compared hospitals before checking into one. And that number is likely to grow, as 62 percent believe hospitals "vary with respect to quality." When picking a hospital, the foremost factor (cited by 74 percent) is insurance coverage, followed by a doctor recommendation or referral and the hospital's reputation (both mentioned by 64 percent).