Don’t Trust the Patient to Assess the Doctor

Deciding which doctor to trust your health to is a ticklish business.

There’s the old adage that the descending order of what attracts patients is: availability, affordability, affability and finally ability – suggesting the consumer is not very discerning.

An idea reinforced by the quote from a not very emancipated-patient-friendly sounding cove, Dr. Peter Bernardo, president of the Oregon Medical Association.

Who is quoted in an article in The Lund Report (an article about people getting fired because Angie’s List had started reviewing doctors along with plumbers, handymen, mechanics etc.). Bernardo said “assessing the quality from a truly medical standpoint is usually beyond the scope of an individual’s patient knowledge and experience,”

But he is a surgeon.


Grist to the Mill


Another report adds grist to this mill however. A National Study of Patient Satisfaction, Health Care Utilization, Expenditures, and Mortality published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported “higher overall health care and prescription drug expenditures, and increased mortality.”

This paper also, incidentally, reported that, in doctors receiving higher satisfaction scores, “patients often request discretionary services that are of little or no medical benefit, and physicians frequently accede.”

Give ‘em what they want and they’ll be satisfied with you, I guess is the message.

I devote a chapter in the book to “Getting the Right Doctor” as it is a crucial but delicate business – a relationship some liken to a marriage, but without any sex to make up the arguments (or at least hopefully not).

Bottom line is, this popularity of websites and the like who rate doctors according to patient satisfaction surveys, is likely not a very good way to judge who is a good doctor.




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