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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Monday, June 25, 2007

Primary care doctors improve on quality measures

By Liz Kowalczyk, Globe Staff

The quality of medical care provided by Massachusetts physicians exceeds the national average in many areas, but some doctors here fall short in key ways, particularly in treating patients who are depressed and screening patients for colorectal cancer.

New data from the Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, a coalition that includes doctors, hospitals, and health plans, show that on 12 of 17 measures, Massachusetts doctors score in the top 10 percent of doctors in health plans nationwide.

The MHQP is posting on its website today new performance ratings for primary care doctors in 150 Massachusetts physician groups -- though not for individual doctors. The group makes individual results available privately to doctors.

MHQP has added three new measures this year: how well doctors screen patients for colorectal cancer; whether they use the right antibiotics to treat children with upper respiratory infections; and whether they test diabetic patients for kidney disease.

Barbra Rabson, executive director of the group, said doctors have used the information over the past several years to steadily improve the care they provide to patients, especially children with asthma and diabetic patients. Most physician groups, for example, test at least 90 percent of their diabetic patients for high cholesterol.

But there still is significant variation among physicians in some areas, particularly on the newer measures. For example, 71 percent of patients statewide receive colorectal cancer screening, but among medical groups the percentage varies from 40 percent to 93 percen

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