The internet has become the great equalizer when it comes to obtaining information about those that provide us with the various services we’ve become so dependent upon. Everyone from professors to plumbers to landlords and lawyers can have their performance rated by consumers across a variety of websites. These reviews can play large roles in the decision-making processes of consumers, clients and patients. Students may register for classes with certain professors based on the reported prior experiences of others. A plumber or electrician with high quality feedback will likely get the job over a provider with poor scores.
The medical profession is no different. For many, the first stop when looking for a new doctor is the internet. Searchers can find their doctors’ educational information, length of time in practice, and any demerits against them; all with just a few keystrokes.
One such scoring system, however, is taking fire as surgeons claim that it is not representative of their actual service to the medical community. The website ProPublica has released its Surgeon Scorecard project. On it, searchers are able to find information on surgeons offering some of the most common elective procedures available, including knee replacements, hip replacements, gallbladder removal, and others. Searchers can search by their precise location or look into a more generalized area like an entire state.
Once a general search has been narrowed to a particular hospital or surgeon, the data is analyzed and a rating is given which indicates the number of complications that the hospital or surgeon has encountered while performing various procedures.
It is exactly this “rating per complication” that has doctors that take only the most complicated cases speaking out. And, with 1.2 million searches conducted in its first two weeks, they are hoping that their voices are heard.
Doctors that work with the most complicated cases are generally among the very best at what they do. Nothing about their patients is “standard” and their cases are the most troublesome; those involving readmissions, infections, or other issues. Because of the high number of pre-existing complications, such surgeons may look particularly unfavorable when compared to his or her peers who routinely deal with less complicated cases. This doctor may very well be the one that you would want working on your case but, because of a high number of reported complications found within his or her caseload, that surgeon may be bypassed for someone who may not be as qualified to perform your particular operation.
While tools like the ProPublica Surgeon Scorecard may prove useful for an initial search, nothing beats the advice of a trusted professional or a face to face conversation with the surgeon in question. Work to understand why a surgeon has the rating that he or she has and, in turn, gain better insight into whether that surgeon is best suited to help you through your particular procedure. Your health and well-being deserves more than just a cursory glance at a slider on a website.