Which medical clinic in the Twin Cities offers the best value in terms of cost and quality?

Consumer Reports magazine took at stab at answering that question for its upcoming October issue, using publicly available data to rate Minnesota clinics.

The winner: Northwest Family Physicians, a group with 15 doctors in the northwest suburbs.

Northwest was the only group that got top ratings in both quality and cost under a scoring system developed by HealthPartners, which worked with Consumer Reports on the project.

"The data show that you don't have to pay the highest prices to get the best quality care," wrote Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, in a commentary piece titled "When costlier care isn't better." (tinyurl.com/95drbqe)

The magazine put Northwest at the top of a list of 18 metro-area medical groups after wading through HealthPartners data on 88 "quality" measures, patient satisfaction surveys and overall costs.

Consumer Reports chose Minnesota for a special insert in part because it's one of a handful of states that collects and publishes quality measures on clinics and hospitals, part of the larger effort to engage consumers in health care decisions.

Northwest, which runs three clinics and two urgent care centers, beat out all of the region's large medical groups, including HealthPartners' own clinics (which nevertheless ranked as a "good value").

"Certainly we're happy to hear that," said Mark Pottenger, Northwest's administrator.

"Everyone says they want to provide high quality and low cost," he added, but said he thinks Northwest has an advantage.

"We can make changes quickly," he said. "I think our independence and our size enable us to move quicker."

MN Community Measurement, a nonprofit collaborative, has been posting clinic quality ratings online for eight years, but often the information is difficult for consumers to use, says its president, Jim Chase.

Consumer Reports took the group's scores on 550 Minnesota clinics and revamped them to be more consumer friendly, Chase said.

The results will be posted Tuesday on the group's website, MNHealthScores.org, and included in a special statewide insert in the magazine.

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384