Variations Found During Physician Profiling Study Are Difficult to Explain

From 1994 to 1998, staff at the Center for Research in Ambulatory Health Care Administration developed, tested and demonstrated a national physician profiling system for ambulatory health care.

The new system was designed to offer individual physicians meaningful data on their medical practices—including their use of lab tests, referrals and other medical resources—which could be compared with national norms.

The Center for Research in Ambulatory Health Care Administration is the research arm of the Medical Group Management Association, which represents 6,300 group practices employing more than 209,000 physicians nationwide.

Key Results/Findings

  • In the implementation phase of the project, the project team developed two databases: one with procedure and charge data and the second with diagnoses and patient-level data.

  • Of 130 practices originally recruited, 77 were able to provide the required data, resulting in 3,849 physicians profiled.

  • Using the database on physician procedures, the project team prepared reports enabling the medical practices to compare their use of medical services with other practices.

  • Initial findings from the project revealed that significant variations in physician profiles cannot be explained by practice demographics, provider characteristics, regional differences or sources of payment.