December 11, 2014
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government must post information about physician performance and quality of care on a public website.
What’s the issue?
Assessing physician performance and quality of care is a critical component of the move to greater accountability and improved value in health care. Surveys show consumers have high interest in information that helps them evaluate and choose physicians. Insurers, employers, and government are increasingly tracking physician performance–for quality improvement, network creation, contract negotiations, and payment incentive initiatives.
The federal government has now entered this realm with the launch of Physician Compare, a website mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Physician Compare follows in the tradition of, and will be cousin to, Hospital Compare, Nursing Home Compare, Home Health Compare, and Dialysis Facility Compare. Those earlier-established sites and the data they present have evolved significantly over the past decade and now encompass thousands of facilities nationwide, including every acute care hospital in the nation and almost 16,000 nursing homes.
The sites are credited with advancing accountability and motivating improvements in care and quality. But they are also widely viewed as poorly organized and inadequately audited when the data are submitted by facilities. As a result, the sites are not as impactful or as widely used as they could be. Under the ACA and subsequent legislation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is required to improve these public accountability initiatives. For example, next year CMS will present five-star ratings of hospitals, based initially on measures of patient experience. In addition, starting in 2015 more nursing home data will be submitted electronically and audited.
Physician Compare is being developed amid these positive changes. This brief focuses on Physician Compare’s evolution to date and current trajectory. It does not present a full discussion of the issues surrounding physician quality measurement or the public reporting of quality and cost information.