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Measuring Physicians' Performance

Posted Jan 24 2009 12:00am
Over the years I have had countless conversations on how to select a competent physician. Advice on this issue is easy to find, but the desired result is more difficult to achieve. In the last posting, I listed many of the recommendations of ‘experts’ and indicated the pitfalls of their advice.

The New York Times recently published a column offering their advice on choosing a physician. If you review the piece, make sure to peruse also through the deluge of readers’ comments, including one from your humble blogger.

While the Times piece is informative, it does not offer a surefire prescription for selecting a high quality physician. There simply is no easy formula to assess physicians’ competence, like the magazine Consumers Reports might use to rate microwave ovens. Nevertheless doctors are being evaluated and compared by insurance companies, employers, the government and now even on Angie’s List! The reason that this task is so challenging, and the results so suspect, is because two fundamental questions cannot be answered accurately.

What is the definition of a high quality physician?

How do you measure this objectively?

Consider these questions yourselves. How would you answer them with regard to your own physicians? Prepare a list of what you think constitutes medical quality in a doctor. How would you measure the attributes you selected? You will soon discover that there is no simple yardstick to measure medical quality. Doctors are not like microwave ovens or kitchen appliances.

I've struggled for years to answer the above two questions, but I can't solve it. In the next postings , I’ll explain more about this conundrum.
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