Perspective from Gregory Kraupa, OD
Perspective from Richard L. Lindstrom, MD
Perspective from Alan E. Reider, JD
April 09, 2014
6 min read
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Physicians react to CMS data release

Perspective from Gregory Kraupa, OD
Perspective from Richard L. Lindstrom, MD
Perspective from Alan E. Reider, JD
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CMS has released a trove of data revealing its 2012 Medicare reimbursements to doctors, and not everyone is pleased about the release.

“We believe that the broad data dump today by CMS has significant short-comings regarding the accuracy and value of the medical services rendered by physicians. Releasing the data without context will likely lead to inaccuracies, misinterpretations, false conclusions and other unintended consequences,” American Medical Association president, Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, said in a press release.

Hoven added that “quality, value and outcomes” are more important metrics for patients than raw data on payments or costs.

CMS principal deputy administrator, Jonathan Blum, wrote in the CMS Blog that the data release is “a major step forward in making Medicare data more transparent and accessible, while maintaining the privacy of beneficiaries.”

Since 1979, CMS was prevented from releasing physician reimbursement and other data by a court injunction, which was overturned in May of last year.

The Research Data Assistance Center (ResDAC) at the University of Minnesota offers a workshop for researchers who wish to work with the data, but the AMA has issued guidelines of its own, particularly aimed at the media.

“Medicare claims data is complex and can be confusing and the manner in which CMS is broadly releasing physician claims data, without context, can lead to inaccuracies, misinterpretations and false conclusions,” the AMA stated in a press release.

The guide lists nine areas the AMA urges reporters to take into account. These include consideration of potential errors in the data with no plan of action for physicians to review or correct the data, a lack of measures of service quality and patient outcomes, and the difference between what constitutes charges vs. payments.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the data are a useful resource for researchers to help the public better understand how Medicare works.

“This data will help fill that gap by offering insight into the Medicare portion of a physician’s practice. The data released today afford researchers, policymakers and the public a new window into health care spending and physician practice patterns,” Sebelius said in a press release.

The data set is available on the CMS website.