Kansas City will soon know more about the quality of primary care in the region.
It’s one of a few places nationwide to receive additional Medicare information on what kind of care patients receive at area physician offices.
A local group of health experts began assessing and comparing the quality of primary care physician practices involving more than 1,000 area doctors in 2010, examining measures like the percentage of diabetes patients getting annual eye-exams. The group, the Kansas City Quality Improvement Consortium, made those assessments available to the public.
The analysis was only based on private insurance claims data. Now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the group is one of three nationwide to get doctor-specific data from Medicare claims. The other initiatives are in Ohio and Oregon.
“It just gives a bigger picture of what health care in our community is like,” says Cathy Davis, head of the Kansas City group.
CMS hopes the effort will give consumers better information about area physicians and help physicians provide better care.
“These organizations will make quality and cost information more available and easier to understand for the health care systems in their areas,” stated acting CMS Administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, in a news release. “By allowing these organizations to combine Medicare data with other insurers’ data in public reports, consumers and businesses will have better information on provider performance and providers will have a greater incentive to improve the quality of care.”
Davis says her group went through a rigorous application process, which involved ensuring that all patient information would be kept confidential.
The project is not to be confused with efforts mainly focused on patient ratings of doctors, which can take a hard look at how well patients feel doctors explain things and are available for appointments.
Davis says the added Medicare data serves two main purposes: first, to help doctors better understand and identify how to best care for their patients.
“It is their goal to have a patient who’s as healthy as they can be, who’s on the right medication if they need medication, and who’s receiving the right care,” says Davis. “This gives them kind of a scale to see what is an issue, if there is an issue.”
Second, Davis says these soon-to-be-compiled reports, when partnered with education, will allow people to make more informed decisions about their health.
“It’s important for patients to understand that this isn’t a report card,” says Davis, who adds that the overall quality of care also depends on what patients do with information they receive from a doctor and how well they advocate for themselves.
Davis says the consortium’s past assessments and education initiatives have already had an effect: the group found that among the physician practices involved in those analyses, the percentage of diabetes patients getting annual eye exams has increased, as has depression care.
The group will be analyzing this new Medicare data and compiling it with the private insurance data over this next year. In the meantime, they’ll be issuing updated physician reports based on more recent insurance claims.
This story is part of a reporting partnership that includes KCUR , NPR and Kaiser Health News.
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