By Bruce Japsen
12/16/14 @ 8:00 am
Most states fail when it comes to providing publicly available information on the quality of their physicians, according to a new report.
The Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave 40 states and the District of Columbia a failing grade of “F” while four other states received a “D,” which is also considered failing. Thus, a majority of Americans – more than four in five – are making uninformed choices when it comes to choosing a physician, authors of the report say.
There was little improvement from last year’s first annual “State Report Card on Transparency of Physician Quality Information,” with the same two states as last year earning the only “A” grades.
States were graded on the availability of quality information on physicians as well as how accessible it was to the public. The findings are disappointing given the push by employers, insurance companies and health policymakers for more transparency in health care at a time millions more Americans have medical care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
“Consumers are flying blind when it comes to selecting hospitals and physicians, and the overall quality and affordability of American health care won’t be improved until we find a way to solve this problem,” Francois de Brantes, executive director of the Institute, known as “HCI3” in the industry, said in a statement accompanying the report.
Just six states passed with a “C” or higher. Minnesota and Washington each earned an “A” while California and Maine received “B” grades. Wisconsin and Massachusetts were each awarded a “C.”
In a state like Minnesota, which earned a rare “A” for its quality reporting, doctor practices are compared on several performance measures as well as the patient’s experience in the doctor’s office. Measures and comparisons of practices are available on conditions like asthma care and colon cancer screenings on the Minnesota HealthScores web site.
Though insurance companies like UnitedHealth Group UNH -0.21% (UNH), Cigna CI +0.12% (CI), Aetna AET -0.1% (AET) and Humana (HUM) have their own ratings for doctors, health plan information isn’t part of the Institute’s report. Consumers often don’t trust insurer ratings, industry analysts say, so advocates for transparency are pushing states to disclose more doctor quality information to the public. The information from those states earning high grades generally comes directly from the doctor practice or hospital system.
“The goal of this report is to not only highlight efforts that are doing well, but also to grab the attention of lawmakers in states lacking this vital information for their residents,” de Brantes said. “If your state isn’t receiving an A or B, it can and should.”