The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act states the Secretary of Health and Human Services will develop a Physician Compare website by Jan. 1, 2011.
In late December 2010, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) fulfilled that requirement by making a major change to the Physician Directory tool on its website with the introduction of Physician Compare, a tool aimed at helping patients find Medicare-participating physicians in their communities. The site will eventually serve as a repository of physician quality rankings.
The new functionality of the site expanded and updated the previous CMS Healthcare Provider Directory, which provides additional details for each health care professional featured. In addition to doctors of medicine and osteopathy, Physician Compare also profiles doctors of optometry, podiatric medicine and chiropractic.
The site lists the doctor's contact information and address, specialty, degree and clinical training information, and foreign language proficiencies. It also allows patients to see whether the practice reported data to CMS through the Physician Quality Reporting System, formerly know as PQRI.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association has expressed concern about this inclusion, noting that the program has not always accurately reflected physicians' reporting status and that the lack of dermatology measures may lead patients to draw the wrong conclusions about dermatologists.
In late 2011, the second planned phase will add information about whether physicians chose to participate in electronic prescribing. Planned expansions for the site, which are yet undated but required by law to have an implementation plan by 2013, include quality of care and patient experience information.
The HHS Secretary will implement a plan for making this information publicly available on the website by Jan. 1, 2013.
The Secretary may establish a demonstration project, no later than Jan. 1, 2019, to provide financial incentives to Medicare beneficiaries who receive services from high-quality physicians. However, higher premiums for beneficiaries would not be allowed as part of the demonstration project.