As called for in the Affordable Care Act, health care consumers are getting more tools for comparison shopping.
The federal government in January launched the first phase of its Physician Compare website. To start with, the site is basically a list of physicians who accept Medicare beneficiaries, but eventually — with more quality measures and other comparison tools — the site and others like it could contribute to fundamental changes in the doctor-patient relationship. Proponents predict comparison tools and consumer empowerment will spread to all corners of the medical world.
“The new Physician Compare tool begins to fill an important gap in our online tools by providing more information about physicians and other health care workers,” CMS Administrator Donald Berwick said when the site was launched. “This helps to pave the way for consumers to have similar information about their physicians as they have for nursing homes, home health agencies, and health and drug plans,” Berwick said.
The next phase of the website, scheduled to become active later this year, will include more information, such as whether physicians prescribe drugs electronically. By 2015, the site is expected to include quality of care measurements, as well as patient satisfaction measurements for doctors in a variety of fields, including osteopathy, optometry, podiatry and chiropractic. The site also contains information about other types of health professionals who routinely care for Medicare beneficiaries, including nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, registered dietitians, physical therapists, physician assistants and occupational therapists.Â
Part of the health care reform law’s goal is to encourage better-informed, actively engaged patients. We asked experts: How might tools such as this achieve that goal? Are there unintended consequences in comparison tools such as these? How might the traditional doctor-patient relationship be changed by efforts like this?
We got responses from: