CMS's Physician Compare website falls short in statistical review

Researchers say 99.7% of physicians' profiles lack individual quality data and 77% lack group data.
By Jonah Comstock
02:50 pm
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Physician Compare, a CMS-operated website mandated by the Affordable Care Act, isn't providing a whole lot of information on most doctors, according to a research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers from the University of Michigan used statistical software to estimate the quality and quantity of data available on the platform based on a sample of more than a million physician profiles. 

TOPLINE DATA

Only 23% of the physicians analyzed had any quality information available on their site, and most of that was quality information about their physician group. When it came to quality information about them as an individual, just 2,500 physicians, or 0.3% of the sample, had any. Even in that small sample, physicians' quality information was incomplete across different categories.

But the problem is bigger than a lack of information. Where there was information, it was overwhelmingly positive, with individual performers boasting an average score of 98% (group scores averaged 68%).

The explanation, researchers posit, is pretty simple: submission of quality information to the website is voluntary, although there are small reimbursement incentives for participation. And physicians choose which quality measures to submit, giving them the option of submitting only those measures in which their scores were especially high.

WHAT'S THE HISTORY?

CMS launched Physician Compare almost a decade ago in December 2010 with the goal of creating a consumer-friendly physician quality comparison website. The agency has continued to invest in improving the website, with a major update as recently as 2017 to purportedly add star ratings to the site. CMS also runs Hospital Compare and Nursing Home Compare sites.

But research like this suggests that the website isn't nearly comprehensive enough to provide real value to patients, and may not even meet the requirements laid out for the website in Section 10331 of the Affordable Care Act.

ON THE RECORD

"In this study, 76.7% of clinicians had no performance data on Physician Compare, 99.7% had no clinician-level performance data, and among clinicians with data, performance reflected only a few measures and the quality performance was generally high," the authors wrote. "As currently configured, Physician Compare fell short of its goal of providing information that is widely useful to patients and their caregivers for choosing clinicians."

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