Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said he was skeptical about open forums evaluating doctors.
“There is no correlation between a doctor being an inept danger to the patient and his popularity,” Professor Caplan said. Reviewing doctors is “a recipe for disaster,” he said.
I think we can agree that this kind of ranking has very little substantive validity with regard to the relative ability of doctors to diagnose and treat patients. But where does that leave us? Should there be a more systematic appraisal of these skills? Should it be available to the public?
What happens now? Well, informal conversations form the basis for physician reputations.
I know of one primary care doctor, for example, who has an outstanding reputation among his patients but who is regarded much less highly by his peers. Who is correct?
The same is true among specialists. There are some surgeons and other specialists who are very highly regarded by referring doctors especially because they are good at making themselves available when requests come in to see patients. But, those referring doctors have no substantive basis for knowing whether the outcomes experienced by their favorite specialists are better than, equal to, or less good than others.
Should we care about this at all? For referring doctors reading this, what criteria do you use for making recommendations to patients? Are you satisfied with the information you have?