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"The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through." -- Sydney J. Harris

The DOCTOR Project Is… In

Aligning Forces for Quality Spotlight
May 21, 2014

How well do the doctors in your community perform when it comes to managing patients’ chronic conditions and offering preventive screenings? The DOCTOR Project seeks to find out and let you know.

Launched earlier this year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the DOCTOR Project is a new initiative that will involve 10 communities across the country developing consumer-friendly reports that measure how physicians in that community perform in delivering high-quality health care. The project will be led by MN Community Measurement, the leader of the Minnesota’s Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q) Alliance, and the data will be published by the popular magazine Consumer Reports.

Reaching a Bigger Audience

The $1.3 million project builds on the positive consumer response from a smaller pilot initiative in which Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin worked with Consumer Reports in 2012 and 2013 to produce inserts about the performance of physicians in those states. Physicians were rated on their ability to provide timely and quality care for diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and screening for colorectal cancer. One of the great advantages of collaborating with Consumer Reports is that it is a trusted publication with an expansive reach; the magazine has a circulation of more than 4 million, and the companion website, ConsumerReports.org, is one of the largest subscription-based websites, with approximately 3.2 million subscribers.

The DOCTOR Project dovetails perfectly with AF4Q’s goals to increase patient engagement, improve the quality of health care, and push for more cost-effective health care.

Consumer Reports is very good at presenting complex data in a reader-friendly and engaging way to help people make better choices,” said Jim Chase, president of MN Community Measurement. “Through AF4Q we’ve built up several communities that have robust local data. We want to help people find and share this information. Use of the information will drive overall improvement in the health care system. So many people turn to Consumer Reports to figure out what stereo or car to buy. Well, health care affects everyone, so why not provide this kind of information the way you provide it on other consumer products?”

MN Community Measurement has its own strong track record of publicly reporting data. Chase said the original push to make health care data more visible was to empower patients to make more informed choices. However, health care providers have been just as moved by the data as patients and make comparisons to their peers’ performances.

Asking the Right Questions

In Boston, for example, subscribers to the Massachusetts Consumer Reports read information about how well doctors in the area listened to patients’ needs and concerns; whether patients understood how to take care of their problems after leaving the doctor’s office; whether it is easy or hard to get appointments or have questions answered over the phone; how hard or easy it is to get lab or other test results; and how well their doctor coordinates their care with specialists.

The DOCTOR Project takes these questions and efforts a step further to combine regional data into a national picture that will be presented by Consumer Reports. Ten regions across the United States will simultaneously publish a regional insert on the same measurement topic, such as diabetes, explains Chase. Consumer Reports will configure the data to make the greatest impact on readers. The reported measures will focus on physician performances in diabetes, cardiovascular care, and preventive cancer screening. Recruitment of the 10 communities is currently underway, and Consumer Reports is expected to publish the results in 2015.

Even though the DOCTOR Project just began, Chase said the AF4Q team is already looking toward the future. “There are many ways we can leverage this regional data,” he said. “And we want to also consider other measures, such as the patient experience, which is not the same thing as patient satisfaction. How was the access? What was the waiting time in the waiting room? How well did the provider communicate with you? Were you able to interact well with the staff? These are all important questions that can drive change in our health care system.”

You can view the spotlight here.