Getting Beyond Anecdotes About Quality Docs

Creating a partnership between regional health alliances and Consumer Reports to publish ratings of physician groups

    • February 4, 2014

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, worked with three regional alliances that promote health care quality to develop and publish credible ratings of groups of physicians.

Dates of Project: November 2011 through June 2013

Description: Each alliance gathered information from physician groups using measures of health care quality the alliance had developed. Statisticians, medical staff, and journalists at Consumers Union then worked with the alliances to analyze the information, turn it into ratings, and agree on how to present them.

The alliances—Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, Minnesota Community Measurement, and the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality—are among 16 participating in Aligning Forces for Quality, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Some medical practices in Minnesota screened only 15 percent of their patients for colon cancer, while others screened 97 percent.

Key Results

  • In 2012 and 2013, Consumer Reports published ratings of groups of physicians in each region, focusing on arenas each had chosen, such as patients’ experiences with physicians, and the record of physician groups in screening for cancer and controlling chronic diseases such as diabetes.

  • In March 2013, Consumer Reports published an article on which types of cancer screening consumers should get and which they should avoid. The article revealed wide variations in testing for colon cancer—one of the most effective screens—among medical practices in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

  • Consumers Union and the regional alliances used multiple formats to disseminate the reports to employers, consumer organizations, health plans, state agencies, and pharmacies.

Half of consumers who read the inserts in Consumer Reports said they would share the ratings with family and friends, and 20 percent said they would speak to their doctor about them.

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