Familiarity Breeds Content

You’re about to go under the knife and must choose between two surgeons—(a) one you know, but whose professional ratings are below average and (b) one who’s highly rated but who’s never treated anyone with whom you’re acquainted. Which do you pick? Asked the same question in a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, respondents chose (a) over (b) by 50 percent to 38 percent. Results were similar when people were asked to choose between hospitals: 62 percent would pick the hospital their family has “used for many years without any problems,” while 32 percent would take the one “rated much higher in quality by the experts.” In choosing a health plan, though, people pay somewhat more heed to expert opinion: While a plurality would pick the plan recommended by friends and family members (47 percent), nearly as many would chose the one favored by “independent experts” (45 percent). As you can see from the chart, TV commercials for prescription drugs have yet to impress a majority of consumers. Marketers may take comfort, though, in the relatively low number who rate the spots as downright “poor.”Wood River Gallery/Picture Quest