Physician Compare still missing the mark, critics say

While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is still embroiled in objections from physician groups, including the American Medical Association (AMA), over the accuracy of the rating system used on its Physician Compare website, others criticize that the database contains information on too few physicians to be useful in helping consumers find doctors, according to an article from USA Today.

Out of the roughly 600,000 doctors and more than 600 accountable care organizations (ACO) in the United States, for example, the CMS data include just 66 group practices and 141 ACOs. And the information is lacking just when many consumers need it most, noted the article, as more insurers narrow their networks and force individuals to search for a new doctor.

"They are behind, there's no doubt," Terry Ketchersid, M.D., a kidney physician and vice president of clinical health information management for the electronic health records company Acumen, told the publication.

What's more, Ketchersid said that the rating data that is available can only be truly understood by other physicians, thus missing the goal of enabling the average Medicare beneficiary to make an intelligent choice.

Although CMS representatives claim that deeper information about more providers will be available on a "phased in" basis, some consumer advocates allege that the AMA's influence kept the flow of information to a trickle.

Opinions vary as to whether it's better to get imperfect information out sooner or publish more complete, accurate data later. John Haughton, a geriatric rehabilitation doctor who works in healthcare information technology, told USA Today he favors the former. "It's not as critical that it be perfect this year or next year," he said, "as that ... [it] is moving in the direction of the system being better than it is now."

To learn more:
- read the article