Physician Compare: Still unimpressive

My friend, Jordan Rau at Kaiser Health News reports that Medicare is upgrading its doctor ratings website, Physician Compare to get ready to provide more robust information as part of the Affordable Care Act. The site is intended to include more information about doctor quality and patient experience. It also has the capability to let patients search for doctors by part of the body, e.g., abdomen.

I like the idea of the Physician Compare website. In particular I’m hopeful that we’ll start to see some information at the individual physician level (which is what patients care about) rather than the group practice level (which is what most providers prefer). For now, though the site is not too useful.

I tried searching for my doctor, an adult internist in a good sized group practice that I’m sure takes Medicare. I also tried my former physician. No luck. Then I searched for some pediatric specialists (figuring there is some Medicaid data on the site) but couldn’t find the people I was looking for.

After that I checked out some of the individual listings. There’s very little there now. The only thing about quality is what programs they are participating in, e.g., PQRS. Nothing on the results.

If Physician Compare adds data, as the Kaiser story promises, it may become useful. But it will still have the problem of incorporating information just on participants in federal programs like Medicare rather than looking at a provider’s entire population, which typically includes plenty of commercial patients.

The comments section of the Kaiser article includes some good points: how do we feel about sharing our views of providers in a post-Snowden world, why doesn’t the site include information on whether the provider is employed or in private practice, and how old are the data?

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By David E. Williams of the Health Business Group.

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