A guest post by Harold DeMonaco this morning at HealthNewsReview Blog asks, Where is the Voice of Consumers in Best Doctors/Best Hospitals Rankings? While the US News and World Report list of Top Doctors provides reliable information about doctors based on the opinions of their fellow physicians, DeMonaco, a physician at Mass General Hospital in Boston, notes that it entirely excludes patients' voices. DeMonaco adds that many of the websites where patients can review doctors have too few reviews and use too few measurable outcomes to be helpful. US News and World Report is a reliable source, but uses reputation as a proxy for quality of care, which is no guarantee especially for an individual patient, but, as DeMonaco says, at the moment that is about the best we can hope for.
Nonprofit organizations like Washington Consumers Checkbook also provide physician rating services. However, there is often a cost associated with accessing these ratings, and services are geographically limited. In today's Washington Post article, Eye Care That's Off the Chart, we learn that Checkbook found eye-catching differences in price and service between District outlets for eyeglasses and contact lenses. The Post also announces free two-week access to Consumers Checkbooks advice and ratings about local eyewear outlets. The depth and range of information that Checkbook has assembled on just this one aspect of health care only illustrates the need for more access to this type of information.
This dearth of reliable, accessible information is precisely what CFAH President Jessie Gruman mentioned in yesterday's post: Bad Language: Words One Patient Won't Use (And Hopes You Won't Either). Jessie points out that comparative cost and quality information is not available on almost any of our relevant choices. And many doctors resist discussing issues of quality and cost with us: They often have limited knowledge about the wild variation in health care pricing and little meaningful information about the quality of the care they, their own clinic or their hospital delivers.