Tufts Health Plan Releases Physician ‘Report Cards’ Online
Tufts Health Plan, Massachusetts' second-largest health plan, last week followed the example of several California insurers and posted physician practice quality ratings to its Web site, the Boston Globe reports. The ratings are the first to be made publicly available by an East Coast HMO, Tufts officials said. Most health care report cards to date have focused on the quality of health plans, not physicians, the Globe reports. The Tufts ratings compare 105 physician groups to national benchmarks in six areas: member satisfaction with primary care physician; access to specialty care; appointment wait time; rate of breast cancer screenings; rate of cervical cancer screenings; and rate of eye examinations for diabetic patients. PacifiCare, which has 2.2 million members in California, was believed to be the first health plan to publish physician report cards three years ago, according to the Globe. PacifiCare now evaluates physician groups in more than 40 categories, and some in Massachusetts hope that Tufts will take PacifiCare's lead in expanding its offerings. Tufts created its rating system using guidelines from the Massachusetts Medical Society, which represents most physicians in the state. Tufts also allowed physicians to review the data prior to its posting. However, Tufts reportedly received "a lot of push back" from physicians on some of the information, despite the fact that 87% of physician scores were above average and no group earned below-average scores in any category. According to Tufts officials, physicians' criticisms may stem from the fact that some California provider groups lost patients to practices with higher ratings after quality information was made public. Recent studies, however, indicate that consumers value the advice of family and friends above quality ratings when choosing a physician, according to Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation (Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, 10/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.