Physicians' society backs voluntary watchdog program Aim is to pre-empt mandatory reports

December 17, 1991|By David Conn

Last year Maryland's physician society worked to defeat a bill that would have required doctors to report the number of tests they order, the procedures they perform and other detailed information to the state.

Yesterday, the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland sought to pre-empt another fight over mandatory state reporting requirements by embracing a voluntary program run by a private company.

The physician's association is promoting the program as a way of reducing health-care costs.

The program, InforMed, is intended to show participating doctors howtheir practice patterns -- the number and kinds of tests they order, the drugs they prescribe, the number of hospital days their patients use, and so on -- differ from those of most other physicians, and how much those differences cost their patients and insurers.

But the information will be available only to the doctors and not the state.

The shift in Med-Chi's position is due in part to its recognition that health-care reform in Maryland is inevitable, Med-Chi officials acknowledged yesterday as they explained the program to a symposium of doctors, legislators and others.

InforMed, started by Baltimore's Barton-Gillet Co., a marketing and consulting firm, is a voluntary medical accounting program.

The physicians who subscribe to the program must pay a Barton-Gillet subsidiary about 1.5 percent of their annual payments from insurers and agree to allow the companies they do business with to provide utilization data to Barton-Gillet.

If the doctors respond to the information by cutting back on the services they order, insurers will reward them with higher levels of payment, more patients or both.

To date about 800 physicians have signed up, along with a number of insurance companies, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland Inc., said David Willse, the chairman of Barton-Gillet.

Mr. Willse predicted half the doctors in the state will be on board by next July.

The InforMed program that Med-Chi unveiled is similar to a bill that a business, insurance and labor coalition unsuccessfully proposed last year as a step toward controlling rising health-care costs, which last year amounted to 12 percent of the U.S. gross national product.

It would have required physicians to give information to the state about the way they practice, although it would not have given the state the power to curtail procedures and testing.

But Med-Chi worked to defeat the bill, arguing it was an unfair and unnecessary burden on doctors because much of the information already was being collected from other sources.

"The only reason to create that system was for people to go out and organize their own preferred-provider organizations from [the list of] low-cost doctors," Mr. Willse said.

Earlier this year, Mr. Willse began signing up doctors around the state for InforMed.

Infor-Med would rely on the same types of data that were included in the legislation that Med-Chi fought last year.

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