I don't think that anyone who has read this blog over the past several months or heard me give speeches can accuse me of being anything less than a strong advocate for transparency in the health care system. Nor have I hesitated to publicly disagree with the Massachusetts Medical Society when I feel they are being overly protectionist or conservative in their public policy positions. But I admit to sympathy for the MMS' point of view, as set forth in this story by Jeff Krasner in today's Boston Globe.
As noted in the story, the MMS is suing the state's Group Insurance Commission, which runs the health benefit program for state and local government employees, for a failure to properly rank physicians in tiering them by cost and quality. My sympathy comes from the fact that doctors in our hospital have been improperly ranked based on faulty information and, when they have called the GIC's agents on this matter, they have been told, in essence, "Too bad. We'll fix it next year."
It seems to me that the GIC's intentions are good, but the implementation is flawed. If there is a not a clear and timely procedure for correcting incorrect data about a doctor, the agency is unwittingly providing poor information to the public, undermining its very purpose in providing information in the first place. To the extent patients end up paying higher co-pays to see doctors who are improperly ranked, it is unfair. Finally, the persistent publication of erroneous data undermines the efforts of those of us who are encouraging greater transparency by aiding and abetting the opposition of more recalcitrant members of the medical profession. (And to be clear, I know Dr. Bruce Auerbach, the current head of the MMS, and he is a strong advocate of quality improvement and is definitely not in that "recalcitrant" category.)
The article gives a couple of examples of the problems encountered by doctors in their rankings. I invite other MDs out there to share their stories on this blog.