It’s been about a month since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its raw physician Medicare claims data, drawing a great deal of attention from the press and leaving physicians to provide context about the data to patients. 

This data was not the kind of data physicians really need – instead, if the agency wants to provide greater transparency, CMS should put its efforts into providing us with accurate and timely utilization, cost and outcomes data that, combined with private sector data, will help us make better care decisions and be better caretakers of our health care resources.

Better and more timely data from CMS and other payers would allow us to improve the value of our health care services, better coordinate with other clinicians and strengthen our relationships with patients by giving us information to make more informed care decisions. 

Patients want innovative health care changes to improve health outcomes at reasonable costs. But we can’t make these changes unless we know what we need to change. Physicians might be more open to exploring new payment models, such as bundled payments in multi-specialty group practices or participating in Accountable Care Organizations, if they had information to help them determine if these choices would be right for their practices.

As it stands, we can’t easily track the results of our patients’ full scope of care. Our knowledge about our patients mostly stops with our own offices. If CMS could provide physicians with timely, multi-provider data, we could improve care coordination and patient follow-up, ultimately improving outcomes. 

I agree that more transparent data can help improve quality, increase value and help patients make better care decisions, but we need the right kind of data. Physicians can’t make any improvements with the information CMS released last month. What we can do is continue to provide high-quality care to our patients while urging CMS to give us information that will help us improve the way we deliver care.

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