When it comes to providing consumers with easily accessible information about physician quality, a report out today gave most states grades of 'D' or 'F,' often because they compile data only about primary care doctors, not specialists.
Washington state and Minnesota were the only states that got an A from the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, a nonprofit group that designs programs aiming at boosting health care quality and affordability. California received a 'C,' and the rest of the states got either 'D's or 'F's. The report scored states on several factors, including the percentage of doctors they rated, whether those ratings included information about patient outcomes and consumer experiences and how easy it was to find them through an Internet search.
Using a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation directory of websites that evaluate health care quality, researchers examined whether the information was current, free to consumers, produced by independent third parties and included a range of physicians, including specialists. Programs that failed to meet any of those criteria were excluded, as were physician "report cards" produced by health insurance companies because "patients distrust quality information coming from their insurance providers," the report said.
"I was shocked because I honestly thought the availability of information on the quality of physicians was far more prevalent … It's a very mixed bag," said Francois de Brantes, co-author of the report.
The information is becoming increasingly important as consumers face higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs and "want a sense of whether or not that money is being spent on physicians that will deliver high quality care," de Brantes said.
Many states had information about primary care doctors, but not specialists.
"That's only 10 or 15 percent of the cost of care," de Brantes said. "They now might want to focus on the rest. When patients go and have procedures done by cardiologists or orthopedists or oncologists, they deserve to know the quality of care they are going to get."