CMS website that compares physicians lacks adequate data

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Physician Compare, a government website that is designed to help patients find physicians, is missing essential information on individual providers, making it almost entirely unhelpful, according to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine and cited by Reuters.

Researches analyzed the data from 239,000 physicians, or 23 percent of all providers, who have their information on the website. Physician Compare is a flagship effort by CMS, according to Reuters.

Of all the physicians, close to no one had their data tied back to individual performance. Rather, only 21 percent reported some individual or group data related to outcomes from their practice. Nearly all of the data was based at the practice level, which can make it harder for patients to know which providers have the best outcomes, Reuters reports.

Around half of the providers who listed performance measures had no more than one or two quality outcomes. For the physicians who did list individual outcomes, they tended to have higher quality scores.

Physicians are not required to report data on outcomes for every patient, reports Reuters. Instead, physicians can choose to submit data for cases that had positive outcomes.

"Outside of healthcare, there are many ways to assess the quality of things that we purchase, ranging from clothing, to electronics, to professional services," Anupam Jena, MD, PhD, of Boston-based Harvard Medical School, told Reuters. "Even within healthcare, we have a large amount of data on the comparative effectiveness of drugs, since this information is often mandated by the FDA, but we have very little information on how doctors compare to one another."

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