Mystery Shoppers To Test Minnesota Doctors

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hundreds of Minnesota doctors will soon be part of survey commissioned by the federal government.

They will have “mystery shoppers” calling doctors’ offices posing as sick patients to see how difficult it is to get treatment right away. The New York Times reports federal officials are addressing a “critical public policy problem.”

“It’s scary and nobody wants to be subjected to this kind of thing,” said Dr. David Hilden with HCMC.

But Hilden supports the idea of the undercover survey.

“It will be helpful to see how we can improve practices,” he said.

NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Edgar Linares Reports

Federal health officials commissioned the survey after seeing an alarming shortage of primary care physicians.

“There’s a severe shortage of primary care doctors,” said Hilden.

The survey will also see if doctors are selecting patients with private insurance over patients with government insurance, such as Medicaid. Those programs typically have a lower reimbursement rate for physicians.

“It goes back to economics really,” said Mike Harristhal, Vice President for Public Policy and Strategy for HCMC. “If you look at it over the years, generally speaking, specialty care has been typically a more financially lucrative practice. Especially, for folks coming out of medical school these days with six-figure loan repayments to make.”

Under the new Affordable Health Care act some 30 million Americans will gain coverage in 2014.

This is how the survey will work: A mystery shoppers will call 4,185 doctors offices in nine different states including Minnesota. They will target 465 offices per state. Each office will be called twice by someone who has private insurance and someone who has public insurance. Others will be called a third time and asked directly if they accept government or private insurance.

Some doctors surveyed by the New York Times say the federal government is using “big brother tactics” and are “snooping around”.

“We don’t have any concerns with that,” said Harristhal. “We’re pretty much in the public eye all the time. And truth be told we do the same kind of thing ourselves.”

The data collected will be kept confidential, according to Federal Health Officials.

More from Edgar Linares
  • gtV

    Why have the Feds do a medical survey and “mysteru shop” the MN medical community when any quanitative analysis research methods student[s] at Metro State could assemble, collate, and translate the results without all the inherent usual bureaucratic costs and rigmarole associated with such. Also, even the “patients” could be volunteers from Metro’s diverse age student body, and ‘ailments’; whether real or anonymous; overseen by Metro’s nursing education department.

    When the research students collate and construct all the pertinent data in a coherent report you will find a true-to-life snapshot of MN’s medical community and related health-care issues &/or costs. It could be done, accurately, for a fraction of what the Feds would pay to have it done!

    This research survey with proper academic oversight/management could serve as a model or template for all 50 states. Oh, before I forget, the research survey time-frame would/could be only two semesters [one academic year] long from start to finish. Now how is that for being real-time and inexpensive to prove or disprove a major medical survey?

  • ???

    So you would rather a national study be done all in MN with us footing the bill? That is what it sounds like when you are giving your ideas here. Maybe we should just keep out of anything that we have to pay for since we already have a debt in the state and let the Feds do whatever they want with the money they have. I would never have guessed that someone would be upset by this or argue that we should take the entire thing on our shoulders. Just a slow news day to blog about, or do you have nothing else to complain about?

    • gtV

      WE WOULD NOT FOOT THE BILL!!! The Feds would give a modest stipend toward the school’s academic and procedural costs for the two semesters in question while the students would be using the intended work as a capstone research project for grades and credits. The total costs in this project with computer time shouldn’t exceed $1.5 million at most! That is small potatoes when compared to the multi-million dollar appropriation request that Federal officials have put forth!

      My comments here are not complaints on “a slow news day”! But a statement of common sense reality. This study is a “national study” done with MN talent making a procedural template for all states to follow in an efficient, quick, and judicious scientific research matter. So what is your beef?

  • See BS

    You don’t have to “mystery shop” to find flaws in the government, like that guy who got his lost luggage in France with dog pee all over his clothes.

    While the government sits back and expects private industry to be absolutely perfect and mistake free.

  • See BS

    And the Feds must present a search warrant to the person being searched.

  • Common man

    So the conclusions and “plan of action” as the result of this million dollar study wil be??? Nothing. What will it prove? What will happen… nothing. What a waste… like all government processes.

    • Swamp Fox

      Oh yea of small mind and intellect! It’s too bad you can’t see beyond the trees in your mind’s forest! This study, if done correctly and judiciously just might be of benefit to all of us who need a doctor or medical treatment. Who know’s it might just reveal who is doing their jobs correctly!

  • jan

    I have the opposite problem, my clinic keeps hounding me to come in and have my blood pressure checked. Geez, I was there only 7 months ago and I check it every day at home. They have called me twice and even sent me a letter. They must want to make money really bad. I won’t go iin until I’m good and ready and at my convenience.

  • Rico Suave

    No one should be surprised that clinics don’t want to take Medicaid patients. Medicaid pays a lot less than most insurance and the clinics don’t want to eat the loss. No big mystery there. That’s the effect a government program always will have on any kind of business, not just doctors. That and the horrible reimbursement delays and denials by the govt. just makes doctors and clinics want to pull down the shades and put out the closed sign when they see a medicaid patient coming. They deserve to be paid and they know they’ll get the shaft if the govt. is involved. I don’t blame them at all.

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