All the hype around the release of Medicare billing data clearly points out what little understanding there is when it comes to real problem regarding healthcare data. How many patients a doctor sees, and how many Medicare bills she racks up is not helpful when it comes to improving care. It may identify certain issues related to fraud and abuse for the very few doctors who are crooks; it does nothing to identify best practice and overall resource utilization.
Fortunately, a few legislators understand the real problem. That is why I am very excited about the bill being introduced by lead sponsors, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), both of whom are Ways & Means members. HR 4418, the Expanding the Availability of Medicare Data Act allows Qualified Entities to obtain a copy of the entire Medicare data file. It also allows for release of the file to providers of care for the purposes of understanding variation. Once doctors have this data, they will be looking for best practice. This will change the game from not knowing who is the best performer, to every doctor moving to best performance. By doing so we will finally start to see quality and cost improvement for Medicare patients.
Hats off to our legislators in Wisconsin who understand the real problem.
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