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Medicare launches Web tool to help patients find a doctor

The Medicare agency on Thursday launched an online tool that contains information about doctors and other medical professionals who participate in Medicare, the first step toward rating physicians.

The "Physician Compare" feature was required by Democrats' healthcare reform law. It contains information about physicians' practices and lets patients know whether the doctors have opted to share quality-of-care data with the federal government.

The healthcare reform law also requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to expand the feature by 2013 with more information about the quality of care Medicare beneficiaries receive from physicians and the other healthcare professionals profiled on the site. The expansion will include information on quality of care and patient experience that can help consumers learn more about the care provided by physicians who participate in the Medicare program.