Medicare: The New Angie's List?

Should an official Medicare website let beneficiaries air their opinions of doctors and other health-care professionals?

The Medicare agency says there’s clamor for this. 

Patients and caregivers “regularly ask for more information from patients like them in their own words,” the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in a proposed rule. They regularly request that the Medicare agency include narrative reviews of clinicians and groups on the website, the agency said.

The website in question is called Physician Compare. It’s intended to help beneficiaries find information on health-care professionals participating in Medicare. The CMS said it’s considering adding results from five open-ended questions about beneficiaries’ experiences with medical professionals.

Two camps of opinion believe that doing so is either awful or great.

Medical groups say reviews could unfairly damage a medical practice's reputation.

Consumers reading the narrative responses online won’t have any context from which to make accurate judgments. This could include the type of environment in which they experienced care, the type of caseload the facility and its providers were facing, one medical group said.

Physician Compare is frustrating for practices to deal with, another group said. It’s a hassle to have to correct misinformation on Physician Compare and address any undue harm to doctors’ reputations.

But the other camp says internet-based opinion reviews are the way of the world. Why should Medicare be outside of that?

“Open-ended questions allow patients to share nuanced and rich information that can make patient experience surveys more meaningful for quality improvement,” the Consumer-Purchaser Alliance said. “For professionals, the feedback can help them understand how to effectively improve the more obscure aspects of care quality, such as communication.”

A decision isn’t imminent. But Medicare will move closer to deciding which camp to follow when a final rule on the program is issued in November.

Read my full article here.

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