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, known as the Patient Charter for Physician Performance Measurement, Reporting, and Tiering Programs, 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.
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.
The Patient Charter has the support of the American Medical Association and 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.
Other health plans are likely to follow suit, said Susan Pisano, AHIP spokeswoman. Third-party review of rating systems and allowing physicians to review and challenge data before they become public will likely become the industry standard, she said.
“We believe strongly that consumers both want and need good information on health care quality,” Ms. Pisano said.
Now that the Patient Charter has laid down the ground rules for how clinical performance measures should be used, the next step is to ensure that physician ratings accurately reflect all the care given, because patients are generally scattered across multiple health plans. Ms. Pisano said the AHIP Foundation is studying how to aggregate data from across different plans to provide a full picture of physician quality.