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New NCQA Data Clarifies Physician Quality

Published: Monday, July 26, 2004 - 21:00

A new partnership between NCQA and the GeoAccess division of Ingenix will provide consumers with a comprehensive listing of quality health care.

A searchable database, available on NCQA’s Web site, allows visitors to search for a physician by area of expertise, location and other criteria. Physicians with dual areas of expertise—diabetes and cardiology training, for example—are clearly identified, along with a practice history, education, office hours and other important information. To earn recognition on the site, physicians must meet rigorous quality and performance standards.

“For the past 100 years, people have chosen their doctor based on reputation, location, word-of-mouth, even last name—everything except objective data on the quality,” says Margaret E. O’Kane, NCQA president. “That era is coming to a close. NCQA physician recognition data are rapidly being incorporated into the physician directories and Web sites people use to select their doctors. As a result, you’re going to see people making better choices and gravitating toward recognized doctors.”

Competition amongst physicians to be listed on the site will boost quality in the medical profession, according to the NCQA. Such pressure may help resolve longstanding quality-related issues in the industry.

“Information about physician quality fills a real void in the market,” says Debra Ness, vice president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “Consumers ask for it more often than any other kind of information.”

The new database reflects many of the recommendations for physician directory formatting and content released last year by an expert panel backed by the Commonwealth Fund. The panel’s recommendations offer guidelines on how to make such directories easy-to-use, complete and informative.

To ensure that consumers have access to recognition data by means other than the Web site, NCQA also arranged with GeoAccess to allow that firm to include the physician listing on the online directories it manages for hundreds of health plans and employers.

“Health plans have a strong interest in encouraging their members to see the best possible doctor in their network for any given condition, and this information helps them to do just that,” says Paul Weaver, GeoAccess CEO. “And health plan members have the same interest. If you have diabetes and a doctor has a star next to her name indicating that she does a good job treating diabetes, that’s really valuable information.”

To view the database, visit www.ncqa.org/PhysicianQualityReports.htm

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