How we rate healthcare products and services

Last updated: February 2016

Consumer Reports rates many different kinds of health care products and services, including:

  • Exercise equipment, such as ellipticals, treadmills, pedometers, and home gyms.
  • Home medical devices, such as blood pressure monitors, blood glucose meters, and fever thermometers.
  • Personal-care items, such as sunscreens, moisturizers, electric shavers, electric toothbrushes, and bathroom scales.
  • Drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medication.
  • Medical tests and treatments, such as screening tests for heart disease.

In some cases, such as in our Ratings of exercise equipment and home medical devices, most of our testing is done at our Yonkers facility, with our in-house staff of exercise and medical experts, engineers, and technicians.

In other cases, such as for drugs, our Ratings are based mostly on data that we get from external sources, such as federal and state databases or partner organizations, as well as from our own surveys, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. That data is then analyzed by our in-house physicians and health statisticians and presented by our health writers and editors.

Exercise equipment and personal-care devices

Photo: Michael Smith

We test models that represent the spectrum of products in a given market. Our market analysts look for products with new features and technological advances and a wide range of prices. Staff shoppers then buy the products at retail outlets or online, without revealing that the purchases are for Consumer Reports. The products are then tested by experienced engineers and technicians who put the products through a battery of tests using scientific measurements, along with other tests that replicate the user experience.

We test products against existing industry or government standards and develop our own benchmarks when we encounter new technologies or issues that require further testing. We combine the results of all of those tests to arrive at individual scores for key attributes. Those scores, in turn, contribute to an overall score that enables us to rank products by performance.

Prescription drugs

Our Consumer Reports Best Buy Drug reports provide information that will help you talk with your doctor about prescription medicines, particularly which ones best meet your medical needs and give you the best value for your health care dollar. For example, heavily advertised drugs are often the most expensive ones but aren't necessarily the best first choice for you.

Our reports cut through the noise of drug promotions and use unbiased evaluations of the evidence to make recommendations for some of the most common conditions. The findings in each report combine an expert medical review of the scientific evidence on prescription drugs with their prices. The analysis compares and contrasts the effectiveness, safety, and price of prescription drugs by category—that is, drugs in the same class that are used to treat a specific condition or illness such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heartburn, or depression. Some of the information in our reports come from our partner, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Our reports can be downloaded to print out and discuss with your doctor. Read more about our CR Best Buy Drug reports.

Medical tests and procedures

Our Ratings have focused so far on tests for heart disease. We focused on their effectiveness, benefits, and value for people without symptoms of the disease. The Ratings are based on research by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group that develops recommendations on preventive health care, combined with our additional analysis. Read more about our Ratings of heart tests.

Our partners

Some of our drug information comes from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), a 30,000-member national professional association comprising pharmacists who work with doctors and other health-care professionals in hospitals, ambulatory-care clinics, and long-term-care and home-care facilities. ASHP's mission is to support pharmacists' efforts to help people use medications safely and effectively. ASHP publishes the American Hospital Formulary Service (AHFS). The AHFS is a professional drug information source widely trusted for its established record in refuting unfounded efficacy claims, its rigorous science-based editorial process, and its independence from the influence of pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists represents that the information provided here is formulated with a reasonable standard of care, and in conformity with professional standards in the field. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists makes no representations or warranties, express or implied, including, but not limited to, any implied warranty of merchantability and/or fitness for a particular purpose, with respect to such information, and specifically disclaims all such warranties and representations. Users are advised that decisions regarding drug therapy are complex medical decisions requiring the independent, informed decision of an appropriate health care professional, and the information is provided for informational purposes only. The entire monograph for a drug should be reviewed for a thorough understanding of the drug's actions, uses, and side effects. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists does not endorse or recommend the use of any drug. The information is not a substitute for medical care.

Visit the ASHP website.

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