NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 27, 2007

With respect to critical constraints on patient choice, there is good news on access to vital information, says Dr. Richard Miller, president and CEO of Pharmacyclics. 

In August, the district court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of a consumer group, Consumers' Checkbook, which sued the Department of Health and Human Services to allow disclosures of specific data about physicians from the Medicare claims data base.  Judge Emmet G. Sullivan concluded that "a significant public benefit" could be served by releasing the data and ordered the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to turn it over by Sept. 21.

  • With data on more than 40 million patients and 700,000 doctors, the Medicare database is a gold mine for patients, providing them with a key asset -- information.
  • People will now be empowered to make choices based on critical information that has been grossly lacking in the medical marketplace -- including data on outcomes, cost, performance and quality of physicians and associated providers.
  • For example, patients will be able to review the data on everything from hernia repair to open-heart surgery to treatments for diabetes and cancer, helping them to determine which centers and physicians have the most experience, best outcomes, least complications and lowest cost.

Driven by patient choice, the availability of the Medicare database could be the beginning of an important movement in medicine that contributes to higher quality care and lower costs.  This will likely affect everything from elective procedures for non-serious conditions to complex and dangerous treatments such as open-heart surgery and cancer therapy, says Miller.

Patients will benefit from a deeper understanding of the risks and benefits, and will be able to view the information in the context of their individual needs and goals.  They will be further empowered to make the best treatment choices, based on consideration of all the relevant factors, and not just the bias of their provider, says Miller.

Source Richard Miller, "Choice in Health Care," Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2007.

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