Background: Guiding patients to choose high-quality healthcare providers helps ensure that patients receive excellent care and helps reduce health disparities among patients of different socioeconomic backgrounds. The purpose of this study was to examine and compare the effect of implementing a report-card program on the patterns of hospital selection in patients from different socioeconomic subgroups. Patients undergoing total knee replacement (TKR) surgery were used as the sample population. Methods: A patient-level, retrospective, observational and cross-sectional study design was conducted. Taiwan National Health Insurance claims data were used and all patients in this database who had received TKR between April 2007–March 2008 (prior to report-card program implementation) and between April 2009–March 2010 (after program implementation) were included. Those patients who were under 18 years of age or who lacked area-of-residence or National Health Insurance premium information were excluded. Travelling distance to the hospital and level of hospital performance were used to evaluate the effect of the report-card program. Results: A total of 32,821 patients were included in this study. The results showed that patterns of hospital selection varied based on the socioeconomic characteristics of patients. In terms of travelling distance and hospital selection, the performance of urban and higher income patients was shorter and better, respectively, than their rural and lower-income peers both before and after report-card-program implementation. Moreover, although the results of multivariate analysis showed that the urban-rural difference in travelling distance enlarged (by 4.75 km) after implementation of the report-card program, this increase was shown to not be significantly related to this program. Furthermore, the results revealed that implementation of the report-card program did not significantly affect the urban-rural difference in terms of level of hospital performance. Conclusions: A successful report-card program should ensure that patients in all socioeconomic groups obtain comprehensive information. However, the results of this study indicate that those in higher socioeconomic subgroups attained more benefits from the program than their lower-subgroup peers. Ensuring that all have equal opportunity to access high-quality healthcare providers may therefore be the next issue that needs to be addressed and resolved.
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