The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently halted a study to have "mystery shoppers" seek appointments with physicians to determine how easy or hard it is to access primary care based on public comments that accused the federal government of "snooping and wasting money," says a Medscape Medical News article.
The Federal Register published a proposal for the mystery-shopper project on April 28. Under the proposal, field researchers posing as patients would have called 465 primary care physicians in each of 9 states—Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia—to request appointments for both urgent medical needs and routine exams. If an appointment was made, the mystery shopper would have cancelled it at the end of the call. Each physician would have been contacted twice, once by a field researcher claiming to have private insurance and another time by someone who said he or she was covered by Medicare or Medicaid. In addition, 11% of the physicians would have been contacted yet a third time about appointment availability by researchers who identified themselves as such.
The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago was slated to conduct the survey, estimated by HHS to cost $347,369. The survey results would not have identified individual physicians, says Medscape.