With the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) release of provider payment data now 3 days old, media attention is turning to discussions of what the data really mean, and the American Medical Association (AMA) is facilitating the discussions by way of media guidelines and a webpage that explains how the data could be easily misinterpreted.
On its "9 ways CMS' claim data could mislead patients, reporters" page, AMA walks readers through issues of accuracy and context that should be considered before drawing conclusions from the massive amounts of data on payments to over 880,000 health care providers. AMA was opposed to the data release.
According to the AMA webpage, the "key takeaway" from the data is to "verify the data before you publish." The physicians' group cites problems from potential errors in actual numbers to the ways in which the data may not accurately represent a physician's entire patient population. Other shortcomings of the data, according to AMA, include its lack of information on patient demographics, the effects of geographic differences in coding and billing, and a lack of specificity around specialty descriptions. "Physicians who appear to have the same specialty could serve very different types of patients and provide a dissimilar mix of services, making some subspecialists appear to be 'outliers,' " the webpage states. APTA has similar concerns about the limits of the data.
APTA staff members are continuing to review the data, which contains information on some 37,000 physical therapists (PTs), and will share findings and updates in News Now and other APTA resources.
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