In addition to changes in federal law that cleared the way for Judge Howard to lift the 1979 injunction against releasing the Medicare data, there have been major changes in US healthcare that make the data a potential gold mine for reform advocates, Schneider said. "The costs-per-head for healthcare have risen dramatically," she said. "The costs have risen higher than the income level."
Schneider says releasing Medicare data will shine light on differences in physician fees that will expose doctors who are not delivering good value to their patients. "The price variance" among many medical procedures "is between three- and 10-fold," she says.
Knowing the types and volume of procedures physicians perform will be particularly useful to patients, Schneider said. Knowing the types of procedures a physician performs indicates areas of expertise and procedure volume is a well-established metric for gauging medical outcomes.
Combining Medicare physician data with other sets of information such as commercial claims and quality data has the potential to accelerate efforts to create a value-based US healthcare delivery system, Schneider says. "The release of this information and the overlay of other information… becomes really powerful."