Physicians and consumers who have explored CMS' Physician Compare website(www.medicare.gov) -- an initiative originally designed to give patients and their families an outlet to search for physicians and other health care professionals who participate in Medicare -- will find new content on the site.
When launched in 2010, Physician Compare offered general physician information, such as location and contact information, clinical training background, hospital affiliations and languages spoken.
According to a recent CMS fact sheet,(www.cms.gov) the first quality measures were added to the site in 2014; since then, the agency has been committed to a phased-in approached to public reporting.
In keeping with that commitment, in December 2017, CMS began publicly reporting some 2016 performance information.
It's important to note that there are two different entry points. Patients and caregivers primarily access data about physicians through public-facing physician profile pages, while CMS reports data intended for physicians via downloadable databases. However, both methods of access are readily available online.(data.medicare.gov)
Of interest to some patients -- and now included on Physician Compare profile pages -- are 2016 Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) measures reported for groups and individual clinicians derived from eight categories, described as
- preventive care, general health;
- preventive care, cancer screening;
- patient safety;
- care planning;
- heart disease;
- respiratory diseases; and
- behavioral health.
In addition, Physician Compare now includes 2016 data for the Shared Savings Program, Pioneer and Next Generation Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), and group ACO affiliations.
CMS notes that if a group is part of an ACO, the group profile page will link to that ACO's Physician Compare profile page.
The agency also notes that criteria for public reporting require that measures be statistically valid, reliable, accurate and comparable across reporting mechanisms. In addition, data on public-facing profile pages must be proven to resonate with patients and caregivers.
Also new in late 2017 was the inclusion of star ratings(www.cms.gov) on Physician Compare. For the first time, CMS began publicly reporting a small subset of 2016 PQRS group-level measures on group profile pages as star ratings.
The agency used the Achievable Benchmark of Care methodology. This methodology and the "equal ranges method" for assigning star ratings were chosen "because together they allow the public reporting of a statistically sound and easy-to-interpret set of data" that gives consumers "a point of comparison" when using Physician Compare.
Physicians are invited to offer their feedback on the introduction of star ratings via email to the Physician Compare support team.