Is Your State Passing the Physician Information Test?

Physician quality data are only available for 16 percent of U.S. doctors, according to the second annual “State Report Card on Transparency of Physician Quality Information” report by the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, Inc. (HCI3). Only six states received a grade of “C” or better. This statistic shows why it can be difficult for consumers to make informed choices when searching for a doctor.

Background

HCI3 is a not-for-profit organization focused on improving the quality and affordability of health care through evidence-based incentive and payment reform programs.

Methods

In order to grade each state, HCI3 used scoring criteria that included the percentage of physicians and supporting health care professionals with publicly available quality information; the physicians’ provided information on outcomes, process, and patient experience; the accessibility of the information to consumers; and the recency of all quality information.

Scoring was based upon an attainable maximum of 100 points achieved with up to 65 points scored for the scope of transparency quality information; 20 points for scope of measures; and 15 points for accessibility of information.

HCI3 also examined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s national directory for comparing health care quality. The directory lists public web-based resources and programs available in each state and is designed to help patients find information on the cost and quality of health care provided in their communities.

In examining the foundation’s national directory, HCI3 assessed physician quality in light of the following parameters:

  • whether the resource or program provided information on physician quality free of charge;
  • whether the information was disseminated by an independent and objective third party;
  • whether the information was specific to primary care physicians or specialists; and
  • whether the information on the website came from data that were captured and scored as of 2011 or later.

If any reporting program did not meet all of the criteria defined above, the state was assigned a grade of “F.”

Grades

Minnesota and Washington received an “A” for the second year in a row; Maine and California received a “B”; Massachusetts and Wisconsin received a “C.” States receiving a “D” grade included Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, and Oregon, with the remaining 40 states and the District of Columbia receiving a failing grade.

All of the states receiving passing grades are states in which Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q) programs are present. AF4Q programs, along with HCI3’s Bridges to Excellence Clinician Recognition program, provide sources of public and objective quality information on physicians.

Francois de Brantes, HCI3 executive director, said, “Consumers are flying blind when it comes to selecting hospitals and physicians, and the overall quality and affordability of American health care won’t be improved until we find a way to solve this problem.” In fact, in another study conducted by the University of California San Francisco Department of Dermatology, results of an undercover dermatologist directory study showed that among 4,800 total physician listings, 45.5 percent were duplicates and only 48.9 percent of uniquely listed physicians were reachable.

With consumer-patients taking on more health care costs, HCI3 stressed that legislators should do more to enforce states to provide detailed, accurate physician information.