The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that for the first time, quality measures have been added to Physician Compare, a website that helps consumers search for information about hundreds of thousands of physicians and other health care professionals.
"Patients and their families need facts to help them in making important decisions about health care, and choosing the right physician is one of the most important decisions they face," said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.
In the first year, 66 group practices and 141 Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) now have quality data publicly reported on Physician Compare. The data are reported at the group practice and ACO level.
The quality measures being added include:
- Controlling blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes.
- Controlling blood pressure in patients with diabetes.
- Prescribing aspirin to patients with diabetes and heart disease.
- Patients with diabetes who do not use tobacco.
- Prescribing medicine to improve the pumping action of the heart in patients who have both heart disease and certain other conditions.
In an article by Modern Healthcare, several important questions are raised about Physician Compare:
"The move comes as consumer awareness of physician-rating websites is growing.
Two big questions surround public disclosure of such data: Do these measures give an accurate reflection of the quality of care an organization delivers and is this information useful to patients in choosing where to receive care?"
And further about providing context for consumers:
"Shari Erickson, vice president of governmental and regulatory affairs with the American College of Physicians, said the measures are well validated with a strong evidence base behind them, though it remains to be seen how useful patients will find them.
The data display on the Physician Compare website has improved, Erickson added, but she would like some context given so patients better understand why these measures are important."
Additionally, as frequently mentioned on Policy and Medicine, there are questions about the administrative burden these rating systems place on healthcare organizations:
"Penso said that, ultimately, a performance rating system needs to capture three things: the patient experience, quality (assessed with validated measures), and meaningful
AMGA member groups are working with the National Quality Forum and CMS to make sure performance measures are accurate, that reporting rules and criteria are well understood, and that the reporting process is as least burdensome as possible.
Quality-improvement reporting still remains a big administrative burden for most healthcare organizations, Penso said, because government programs and private insurers all generally ask for the same information but in slightly different ways. 'The issue our members have is there isn't a core set of measures that applies to their total patient population.'"