Inaccurate provider directories are a hurdle to consumers seeking healthcare, but a California law is pushing providers and technology professionals to make improvements.
Consumer frustration with inadequate provider directories may finally be getting the attention it deserves.
At next month's innovation-focused Health 2.0 conference, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and ProPublica will announce the $50,000 first-prize winner of their Finding the Right Provider Challenge.
The winner will demonstrate a tool letting consumers experience searching for and finding the right provider, considering factors such as cost, hours and location, participation with insurance plans, and feedback from other consumers.
While such "carrot" incentives make progress, there are also some new sticks.
Late last year, CMS gained the authority to fine plans up to $25,000 per Medicare Advantage beneficiary for keeping inaccurate provider directories.
Then, last month, the state of California enacted SB 137, which requires all health plans in the state to keep their provider directories online and up-to-date – so much so that the bill requires a plan or insurer, at least weekly, to update its online provider directory, and at least quarterly, to update its printed provider directory.
Onus is on Provider
All of this is welcome news to one Los Angeles-area public health plan, L.A. Care. Many of its 2.1 million members are either in Medi-Cal, California's version of Medicaid, or Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange. SB 137 helps those members maintain their continuity of care, says Dino Kasdagly, chief operating officer of L.A. Care.
"This puts the onus on the provider," Kasdagly says. "On a yearly basis, they have to attest to the accuracy of their licenses, credentials, specialties, demographics, offices, and office hours."
Specifically, SB 137 requires providers to inform health plans within five business days if the provider is no longer accepting new patients, or is accepting them again, after a period of having not done so.
All this has created business opportunity for technology providers, and in this regard, L.A. Care uses LexisNexis, which maintains a master database of data on provider demographics, Kasdagly says. This database relies upon more than 2,000 sources of data and covers more than 8.5 million providers, according to LexisNexis officials.
Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.