Bouwman, R., Bomhoff, M., Jong, J.D. de, Robben, P., Friele, R.
The public’s voice about healthcare quality regulation policies: a population-based survey.
BMC Health Services Research, 15 (2015) 325,
Background: In the wake of various high-profile incidents in a number of countries, regulators of healthcare quality have been criticised for their ‘soft’ approach. In politics, concerns were expressed about public confidence. It was claimed that there are discrepancies between public opinions related to values and the values guiding regulation
policies. Although the general public are final clients of regulators’ work, their opinion has only been discussed in research to a limited extent. The aim of this study is to explore possible discrepancies between public values and opinions and current healthcare
quality regulation policies. Methods: A questionnaire was submitted to 1500 members of the Dutch Healthcare Consumer Panel. Questions were developed around central ideas underlying healthcare quality regulation policies. Results: The response rate was 58.3 %. The regulator was seen as being more responsible for quality of care than care providers. Patients were rated as having the least responsibility. Similar patterns were observed for the food service industry and the education sector. Complaints by patients’ associations were seen as an important source of information for quality regulation, while fewer respondents trusted information delivered by care providers. However, respondents supported the regulator’s imposition of lighter measures firstly. Conclusions: There are discrepancies and similarities between public opinion and regulation policies. The discrepancies correspond to fundamental concepts; decentralisation of responsibilities is not what the public wants. There is little confidence in the regulator’s use of information obtained by care providers’ internal monitoring, while a larger role is seen for complaints of patient organisations. This discrepancy seems not to exist regarding the regulator’s approach of imposing measures. A gradual, and often soft approach, is favoured by the majority of the public in spite of the criticism that is voiced in the media regarding this approach. Our study contributes to the limited knowledge of public opinion on government regulation policies. This knowledge is needed in order to effectively assess different approaches to involve the public in regulation policies. (aut. ref.)