Eyes on the Medicare data dump: Cautions and cautionary tales

Published April 12, 2014   |   
Tabitha M. Powledge

On Wednesday came the government release, finally, of Big Data on Medicare payments to medical practitioners for 2012. The beginning, one hopes, of release of many more years of data in aid of trend-spotting. Also, surely, some reining in of the grossest of these payments. Surely?

The data will keep science and medical writers busy for some time. You can find news about Wednesday’s massive Medicare data dump everywhere, but here’s Jordan Rau’s compact opener for Kaiser Health News: “The federal government published data tracing the $77 billion that Medicare paid to physicians, drug testing companies and other medical practitioners throughout 2012, and what services they were being reimbursed for. The data cover 888,000 different practitioners. More than 6,000 procedures are included, and the full database is so large that it requires statistical software to analyze it.”

At a Business Day post by Andrew Pollack and Reed Abelson there’s a link to the New York Times‘s interactive graphic permitting easy-peasy lookups of what individual practitioners got from Medicare by locale. The two docs who saved me from major surgery 3 years ago, and probably also saved my life, are not listed because they are not in private practice; they work in academic institutions and are salaried. Handsomely, I hope.

Read More