Medicare Updates Physician Comparison Website

Medicare last week added new features to its Physician Compare website as it prepares to start including quality data on thousands of doctors.

The federal health care law requires the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to publish performance data on doctors, including how patients rate them, how well the physicians’ medical interventions succeed and how well they follow clinical guidelines for basic care. The site has been up since 2010, but contained only basic information about doctors and group practices, such as their addresses, specialties and clinical training.

The updated site, located at expands the way people can search for doctors. Along with searching by specialty, patients can now look by body part and medication condition. The site displays a silhouette of a body and users can click on the part for which they are seeking medication attention.

The site also taps into Medicare billing data to more reliably identify the active practice locations of doctors.

CMS expects that next year it will begin adding quality data for group practices as it begins to meet Congress’ mandate that the website provide “a robust and accurate portrayal of a physician’s performance.” CMS has not announced when it will add ratings for individual doctors.

Initial data will come from the Physician Quality Reporting System, which contains metrics for different conditions and specialties. For instance, doctors who treat diabetes patients are evaluated on what percent of their adult patients had a dilated eye exam to look for frequent complications such as glaucoma, cataracts and damage to the blood vessels in the retina that can lead to blindness.

Some of these measures are also to be used when Medicare starts altering the pay of physician groups in January 2015 through another portion of the health care law. This program, named the Physician Value-Based Payment Modifier, will be expanded to cover all doctors starting in 2017.