Under an agreement among physicians, consumers, employers, and large insurers, some health plans have agreed to have their physician rating systems audited by independent experts.
The announcement comes after physicians around the country have questioned the methods used by health plans to produce the physician performance ratings for consumers.
Under the voluntary agreement, health plans would disclose their rating methods. In addition, physicians would have a chance to review their performance data and challenge it prior to publication.
“Having that transparency is a huge change,” said Dr. Douglas Henley, executive vice president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, which is supporting the agreement, known as the Patient Charter for Physician Performance Measurement, Reporting, and Tiering Programs. Giving physicians a chance to ensure that the data is accurate makes the process fair, he said. It's also beneficial for consumers who will be able to better rely on the information provided by their health plan, Dr. Henley said.
The project was led by the Consumer-Purchaser Disclosure Project, a coalition of consumer, labor, and employer organizations that support publicly reported health performance information.
Other principles of the Patient Charter state that the measures should aim to assess whether care is safe, timely, effective, equitable, and patient centered. The measures used should also be based on national standards, preferably those endorsed by the National Quality Forum. The principles of the Patient Charter do not apply to pure cost-comparison or shopping tools.
This agreement provides a foundation for physicians to build on, said Dr. David C. Dale, president of the American College of Physicians, another supporter. Now when any health plan establishes a physician rating system, physicians can ask whether it is standardized and how it stacks up against the requirements of the Patient Charter, he said.
The Patient Charter also has the support of the American College of Cardiology and the American Medical Association. The ACC said in a statement that it “plans to take an active role during these phases to ensure that the ratings programs adequately take into account the needs of cardiovascular professionals.”
Some heavy hitters in the insurance industry have agreed to abide by the principles of the charter, including trade group America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), as well as Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare, and WellPoint.