Individual Physician Medicare Part B Data Released to the Public

On April 9, 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released to the public Medicare Part B data of individual physicians and certain other health care providers. This data has been posted to CMS' website.

Due to the amount of data and the slow process of using multiple filters to access the data on an individual physician, physicians in particular were frustrated with the slowness of the CMS website.

While warning that anyone accessing the data should not jump to any conclusion, the Wall Street Journal has provided an online tool that cuts down the time required to access the data.

The data provides information on services delivered in 2012, including the number and type of health care services, number of unique beneficiaries treated, average submitted charges, and the average amount Medicare paid for those services.

This is in addition to CMS’ new policy that also allows physician data to be made available on a case-by-case basis through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Though the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) and the American Medical Association (AMA) recognize the need for improved patient transparency and greater access to physician data, both organizations are concerned about the lack of safeguards explaining the limitation of the data, limits on republication of the data, or the opportunity for physicians to review and correct any inaccurate information.

“We welcome increased transparency in this era of increasing information availability,” said PAMED President Bruce MacLeod, MD. “But, we should also be mindful that information alone is insufficient as it needs to be interpreted in context and with an understanding of the limitations of the data.”

PAMED is exploring opportunities to help physicians respond to inquiries they may receive about their personal data, and will share this information when it is available.

The AMA released guidance outlining the data set’s nine primary limitations that people need to consider when evaluating physicians’ information. At the national level, they will continue to work with CMS to understand its new approach to releasing physician Medicare claims data and to ensure that this information is accurate and reliable for patients and other stakeholders.

Last Updated: 4/14/2014

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