Patients rate 475 primary care physicians in the Denver/Boulder area
Since July 22, 2009, Coloradans have been able to find out how patients rated 475 primary care physicians in the Denver/Boulder area. Patients rated how well their physicians listen and explain things, make themselves available for appointments and care when needed, arrange to have helpful and courteous office staff, and perform on other important aspects of care that patients can judge.
The survey questions and procedures were developed by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and endorsed by the National Quality Forum. This is the first time these surveys have been conducted on this scale, at three sites.
The Colorado project was managed locally by the Colorado Business Group on Health (CBGH) with support from the Colorado Medical Society (CMS), the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians and two health plans. The Colorado Medical Society and the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians acknowledge that patient experience with care is an important element in overall quality, and they support using a survey that is nationally endorsed and uniformly applied. “This initiative provides important information to patients about care they can expect to receive in a particular physician’s practice,” said Colorado Medical Society President Ben Vernon, MD. “Transparency in the health care system is paramount. We expect this information to not only be helpful to the patients, but also to all of the physicians. After all, achieving good outcomes for our patients is about working together,” he said.
Aetna and United Healthcare chose to participate in Colorado because Colorado stakeholders support innovative programs that improve healthcare. The health plans are collaborating because a joint project insures that there are enough patients to send these surveys to and get good information about physicians, costs are less, and their customers are assured of objective information.
Consumers’ CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services, a nonprofit consumer organization, sponsored this national pilot project. “The surveys gather information consumers want most when choosing a doctor or evaluating a current one,” according to Robert Krughoff, CHECKBOOK’s president. “And the information we are reporting can be expected to motivate and guide doctors in improving their practices.” Research shows this information is medically important. For example, listening and explaining things are essential for getting the right diagnosis, getting patients to do their part in prevention and care, and letting patients share in decisions about whether to have tests and treatments.
Physicians in the Denver/Boulder area have received their reports in advance of the public release. There is information on 475 family medicine and internal medicine practitioners. The physicians’ reports are available free to the public at a CHECKBOOK website www.checkbook.org/patientcentral.
Patient advocates have long requested better information to help select a physician. Patty Skolnik, founder of Citizens for Patient Safety (formerly Colorado Citizens for Accountability) states, “This project, in tandem with the Michael Skolnik Medical Transparency Act, gives patients and providers the opportunity to give and receive feedback that consumers need. It allows patients to make better informed decisions.” There are increasing numbers of websites that collect and report patient ratings of physicians. But most have five or fewer patient reports on most physicians. Many observers regret that very limited approach and are looking to the initiative announced today, with an average of 48 completed surveys per doctor, for a scientific and objective means to help both physicians and patients improve their partnership for good health.
Building a high value, high performance healthcare system depends on the availability—and credibility—of solid data and purchasers who are willing to ask for this kind of care.