August 1998 Bulletin

Wisconsin physicians aid data law, but remain wary

State to collect, analyze data on doctors' performance

The Medical Society of Wisconsin is working closely with the state to guide enforcement of a new state law that calls for the creation of a statewide database to measure the performance of doctors and other health care providers. However, the medical society is reserving the right to file a lawsuit to block the law if necessary.

The state's Office of Health Care Information will collect and analyze data on every patient encounter with a health care provider, including physicians and ambulatory surgical centers. The law establishes an 11-member board of health care information, including two physicians, to oversee data collection and to approve assessments of doctors and other health care providers to finance its operations.

"We will be working with the state in trying to provide the best way to implement the statute with the least possible disruption," said Mark Adams, the medical society's chief counsel. "The law is very broad, that's why we are very concerned for patient confidentiality and the practicality of how the law will be implemented."

Adams said it is likely that the law will be implemented using Health Care Financing Administration's 1500 claim forms that physicians already are filling out. Information from that form would be transmitted to the state. However, he said that form is not designed to measure quality and he charges those who supported the bill with having an ulterior motive. "Proponents of the legislation say they wanted to measure (physician performance), but they also wanted the ability to see who's charging what," Adams said.

Adams said he expects the rules to be completed sometime in the fall for publication late in 1998 and implementation in 1999. In the meantime, the medical society is keeping its options open. "Where we may make a decision is after we see the rules," said Adams, who pointed to issues of patient privacy as grounds for a possible lawsuit. "We would prefer to be working with the state rather than going into court. We'd like to avoid that but it may be necessary."

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