Consumer group that wanted Medicare data launches physician ratings site

Consumers' Checkbook said its three-site pilot program is unrelated to its lawsuit requesting access to individual physician claims information.

By Emily Berry — Posted Aug. 18, 2009

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The same group that unsuccessfully sued the government for access to raw Medicare claims data for individual physicians has launched a patient ratings site that grades individual physicians and uses methodology that the group's president says he hopes will set physicians' minds at ease.

Consumers' Checkbook, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that also rates things like auto repair shops, electricians and movers, in July launched physician ratings for Denver; Memphis, Tenn.; and Kansas City, Mo.

Consumers' Checkbook President Robert Krughoff said the effort to see Medicare claims data was totally unrelated to developing the new ratings, and he said the group was interested in offering a ratings site that patients and doctors could trust.

"My great hope in this is that doctors will appreciate the rigor of this survey and take this survey seriously," he said.

Physicians' scores are based on surveys of patients who have seen the physician in question within the last year, as verified by insurance company data. Doctors are scored on how well they communicate with patients, how easy it is to get an appointment, whether anyone called to follow up on test results, and how helpful the office staff was.

The scores are risk-adjusted and there is no score posted until a statistically valid sample is polled, Krughoff said. In Kansas City, for example, an average of 58 patients were surveyed for each doctor whose rating was posted, according to the group.

The site also includes detailed explanations of its methodology and resources for physicians interested in improving their scores.

Consumers Checkbook sued Medicare in 2006 for access to individual physician claims data it wanted to make public.

In January a federal appeals court ruled in favor of keeping the information private after groups, including the American Medical Association, argued against the disclosure. The AMA argued the raw data would be of little use to patients and could compromise physician privacy.

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