Earlier this week, CMS announced its latest updates to their Physician Compare website. This site, required by the healthcare reform law, is designed to provide information specific to physicians related to the quality of care provided. Although it is currently not much more than a physician directory for Medicare, it will ultimately be designed to make information on physician performance publicly available. CMS is not alone in the payer world in developing access points to provide information on physician related quality metrics. With four clicks of the mouse on the BCBS website, I can find specific information on quality (and cost) for all providers by specialty. Again, the metrics are not robust, but the information is being developed and is easily available.
Seeing this growing access to quality information in the payer world made me curious to see what was happening in quality on the clinical side of the aisle. Certainly we, as physicians, were “keeping up with the Joneses” on the payer side, so I decided to start with the specialty societies. Even if I couldn’t find physician specific information, I was sure I could at least find some direction as to which metrics should be used to truly define quality in each specialty. So off to the sites for the American Academy of Family Medicine and American College of Physicians I went, confident the information would jump off the page, just as it did on the BCBS site. Alas, after 20 minutes of diligent searching, I gave up. Although both sites provided a fair amount of patient education materials, neither one provided any specific information on physician quality or how to best measure it.
As our society continues to demand access to more and more detailed information on all types of purchases, physicians are certainly not exempt. Most of the information related to quality that is currently available, however, lives with the payers and insurers in the industry. This information certainly can be valuable in assessing which physician to choose, but does it truly provide an accurate assessment of the quality of care provided?
We are all on a journey toward a system that will rely more and more on measuring quality and value in healthcare. Who will define quality is yet to be determined, but it appears that those most directly affected by these definitions have yet to fully exercise their voice in this discussion.