Public Policy

Letters: Medicare Official Says 'Physician Compare' Website Does Not Provide Performance Data on Individual Doctors


 

I read the article “Call for Transparency in Health-Care Performance Results to Impact Hospitalists” (January 2013, p. 47) by Shaun Frost, MD, SFHM, president of the Society of Hospital Medicine, with interest. I’d like to clarify a key point about Physician Compare. In the article, the statement that the Physician Compare website (www.medicare.gov/find-a-doctor) provides performance information on individual doctors is inaccurate.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) states that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) must have a plan in place by Jan. 1, 2013, to include quality-of-care information on the site. To meet that requirement, CMS has established a plan that initiates a phased approach to public reporting. The 2012 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Final Rule was the first step in that phased approach. This rule established that the first measures to be reported on the site would be group-level measures for data collected no sooner than program year 2012. A second critical step is the 2013 PFS Proposed Rule, which outlines a longer-term public reporting plan. According to this plan, we expect the first set of group-level quality measure data to be included on the site in calendar year 2014. We are targeting publishing individual-level quality measures no sooner than 2015 reflecting data collected in program year 2014, if technically feasible.

As you may be aware, Physician Compare is undergoing a redesign to significantly improve the underlying database and thus the information on Physician Compare, as well as the ease of use and functionality of the site. We’ll be unveiling the redesigned site soon. We welcome your feedback and look forward to maintaining a dialogue with you as Physician Compare continues to evolve.

Rashaan Byers, MPH, social science research analyst, Centers forMedicare & Medicaid Services, Center for Clinical Standards & Quality, Quality Measurement & Health Assessment Group

Dr. Frost responds:

I thank Mr. Byers for his clarification regarding the current content on the CMS Physician Compare website, and agree that at the present time the website does not report individual physician clinical performance data.

Physician Compare, however, does currently report if an individual physician participated in the CMS Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) by stating “this professional chose to take part in Medicare’s PQRS, and reported quality information satisfactorily for the year 2010.” For those physicians who did not participate in PQRS, their personal website pages do not make reference to the PQRS program.

As the intent of transparency is to educate consumers to make informed choices about where to seek health care, care providers should know that their participation in PQRS is currently publically reported. It is, therefore, possible that patient decisions about whom to seek care from may be influenced by this.

As acknowledged in my January 2013 column in The Hospitalist, Physician Compare currently reports very little information. We should expect this to change, however, as Medicare moves forward with developing a plan to publically report valid and reliable individual physician performance metrics. CMS’ clarification of the timeline by which we can expect to see more detailed information is thus greatly appreciated.

The take-home message for hospitalists is that public reporting of care provider performance will become increasingly comprehensive and transparent in the future. As pointed out, CMS’ present plan targets the publication of individual, physician-level quality measures as soon as 2015, which will reflect actual performance during program year 2014. The measurement period is thus less than one year away, so it behooves us all to focus ever more intently on delivering high-value healthcare.


Shaun Frost, MD, SFHM, past president, SHM

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