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How accurate are provider directories?

The answer is, ‘not very’.

That is according to a paper from Burman et al. (2022). Let’s say you want to schedule an appointment with a physician in your areas that is covered by your insurance. When you look up the physician, maybe you have found that the phone number no longer works, or that they are at a new address, or that they are no longer taking patients. These types of things are bound to happen from time to time, but how often do they occur.

In the Burman et al. (2022) study, the authors use 2018-2019 survey data on primary care providers, cardiologists, endocrinologists, and gastroenterologists from the California Department of Managed Health Care to answer the question posed in the title of this blog. Using this methodology, the authors found that:

Surveys were able to verify provider directory entries for the four specialties for 59% to 76% of listings or 78% to 88% of providers reached. We found that consumers were able to schedule urgent care appointments for 28% to 54% of listings or 44% to 72% of accurately listed providers. For general care appointments, the percentages ranged from 35% to 64% of listed providers or 51% to 87% of accurately listed providers. 

Further, a Kaiser Health News article out today notes that many efforts to make provider directories more accurate have failed.

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