Article by: JEREMY OLSON, Star Tribune
Updated: November 21, 2014 – 5:15 PM
As thousands of Minnesotans wade through open enrollment season for workplace medical benefits, MN Community Measurement is encouraging them to evaluate their doctors along with their insurance options.
The nonprofit organization has emerged over the past decade as a leading source of information, uniquely Minnesotan, rating doctors on whether they provide optimal care to patients with diabetes, depression and other conditions.
There’s little doubt its public rankings have motivated doctors — aggregate measures of optimal care in areas such as diabetes have improved in recent years. But it has been unclear whether the data at www.mnhealthscores.org has influenced patients as they choose doctors and clinics.
Visits to the website have increased, but remain at a modest 100,000 per year.
But now leaders of the measurement organization believe changes in the nation’s health care system will make the rankings more attractive and more useful — both for Minnesotans reviewing employer benefits and for those buying health coverage on the open market or through the state’s health insurance exchange.
Many insurers are dropping plans that allow patients to see any doctors they choose, and offering cheaper plans with limited networks of doctors and clinics, said Jim Chase, executive director of MN Community Measurement. “It’s very important to look at the groups you are going to have access to or might choose for your care.”
Take, for example, the website’s new rankings for doctors’ management of asthma patients.
The good news is overall progress: The share of asthmatic children receiving ideal medical care in Minnesota clinics jumped from 49 percent to 56 percent. (This means they received recommended treatments and needed no more than two trips to hospital ERs for asthma flare-ups.)
The bad news is a huge gap among clinics. At Advancements in Allergy and Asthma Care in Minnetonka, 93 percent of pediatric patients received optimal care during the 12 months ending in June 2014; at seven other Minnesota clinics, zero patients received optimal care.
Chase said patients should ask about poor rankings, but look at multiple measures to get a broader picture of the quality of care provided by their doctors. Many patients now have tiered benefits that leave them paying more to go to certain clinics.
Chase said the rankings can help consumers make informed choices. “Is there much difference in quality, given the difference you might be asked to pay in price?”