Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Transparency, Data, use and misuse - Doctor Tranparency is Chancey

Medicare Doctor Data Should Remain Private, Court Says, WSJ, Health Blog, February 3,2009

Posted by Jacob Goldstein

A federal appeals court sided with doctors in a long fight over who should be allowed to see Medicare data on individual doctors.

A ratings group called Consumers’ Checkbook sued to have access to the data, which it planned to use to rate doctors. The federal government under the Bush Administration opposed the move, arguing that giving up the data would violate doctors’ privacy.

In 2007, a lower court told the feds to hand over the data. But in a split decision, an appeals court has overturned that ruling, the Associated Press reports.

The judges concluded that the freedom-of-information rules under which Comsumers’ Checkbook requested the information are intended to shed light on public institutions, not private businesses such as physician practices.

An AMA spokesman called the ruling a “momentous victory for the privacy rights of physicians,” the AP said. Consumers’ Checkbook said its lawyers are considering an appeal.

Whatever the ultimate outcome, the legal tussle is one more reminder of the relentless push–and pushback– over patients’ access to health information that has long been hidden. Even the president of the AMA has backed insurers’ doctor ratings. Doctors fret that the data could be misinterpreted or oversimplified, but those worries are unlikely to stop the tide.


The AMA (and appeals court) position, that (1) physician payment data - from a public payor - is private, and (2) it cannot readily be understood or interpreted properly by a lay audience, seems out of touch with current realities, where health care cost and quality concerns are front and center on the national agenda, and where adjusting rankings based on case-mix or severity is a relatively straightforward exercise. Physician privacy rights may be guaranteed without withholding from the public this sort of cost and quality information: it’s the public’s dollars, and the public’s health.

Comment by David Harlow - HealthBlawg - February 3, 2009 at 10:09 am

There was a concept known as transparency.
It was designed to stop physician errancy.
But with doctor privacy it interfered.
Doctors feared they would be smeared,
When it doesn’t suit your fancy, transparency is chancey.

Comment by Richard L. Reece, MD, medinnovationblog.blogspot.com

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