Medicare Physician Compare website undergoes overhaul
■ Upgrades to the physician directory incorporate some changes suggested by the AMA to correct errors and improve the information available to beneficiaries.
By Charles Fiegl — Posted July 8, 2013
Washington Medicare’s online directory of participating physicians has been reworked and redesigned in an effort to improve the accuracy of information on the site and make the search function easier to use.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services redid its Physician Compare website after errors were discovered throughout the site after its initial launch in December 2010. CMS technicians have worked to address these issues and build new features for patients to use when searching for medical care. The new version of the site went live June 27.
“Nearly a million physicians and other health care professionals serve the Medicare population,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a statement. “This vastly improved website will provide new information in an improved, easy-to-use format.”
The American Medical Association has worked with CMS on implementing changes to fix major frustrations with the system, such as incorrect addresses and listings showing physicians still at practice locations they left years ago. Physicians had provided input to ensure that the directory is accurate and useful for Medicare beneficiaries and participating doctors, said AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD.
“We are pleased with several changes CMS has made to the site based on our recommendations, including using claims data to verify physicians’ demographic information, improvements to the search function related to how physicians and specialties are listed, and updating important data related to physicians’ credentials and participation in CMS health [information technology] and quality performance programs,” Dr. Hoven said. “The AMA looks forward to participating in focus groups to further evaluate and monitor the site’s new search function.”
The website was required by the Affordable Care Act. At the time, it used an existing health care directory of physicians as a foundation, and CMS programmers worked to incorporate features required by the law.
More ways to find care
The new version of the website has what it calls an intelligent search function. A patient can search for physicians in his or her area by ZIP code, city and state, address, or a landmark such as a mall or park. The beneficiary also can find a doctor by last name, specialty, or medical condition or body part. For instance, searching for the term “rash” will suggest in a drop-down box that patients choose a doctor specializing in allergy/immunology, dermatology, infectious disease or rheumatology.
Clicking the “Search Another Way” tab allows the patient to select a body part that needs medical attention.
Information about physicians still relies on CMS’ Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System, or PECOS. Errors introduced to Physician Compare stem from incorrect information in PECOS. However, the new version of Physician Compare also will use information from claims for Medicare services submitted by physicians. For instance, addresses submitted on claims can verify addresses as they appear on the website.
In addition, Physician Compare will update entries with changes made to enrollment status, such as a move to a new practice, on a quarterly basis. A physician’s profile page will include information on participation in Medicare incentive programs on quality reporting, electronic prescribing and use of electronic health records. In 2014, quality-of-care ratings for group practices will be added, and a similar system for individual physicians will be included in the future.