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Survey: Physicians Mixed on Medicare Payment Data Transparency

August 29, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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Physicians are divided on the hot-button issue of healthcare data transparency, according to a recent poll from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE).

The ACPE surveyed 588 ACPE members, asking them whether data about Medicare payments to physicians should be made public. Forty-six percent of responding ACPE members said no and 42 percent said yes. An additional 12 percent were unsure.

On the negative side, physicians were afraid the data could be misinterpreted by the public and used to portray physicians in a negative and unfair light. “What purpose does this action serve?” Kenneth Maxwell, M.D., from Winston Salem, N.C., responded.  “Publishing the amount of Medicare reimbursement without some form of normative information provides no useful information for consumers.”

Those who said the data should be made transparent said the public has a right to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent and it doesn’t make sense to fight the movement to transparency. “We live in an information age,” Daniel McDevitt, M.D. from Atlanta, Ga. Wrote. “We should be able to look up online where our money is going at all times.”

The survey was spurred by the recent movements in healthcare data transparency along with an overturned ruling that prevented the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from releasing information about payments to individual physicians, ACPE says. In May and June, the CMS released data on hospital outpatient charges for hospitals nationwide. Local governments, like in North Carolina, have gotten in on the act, requiring hospitals to provide public pricing information on medical procedures and services.

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