Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Doctor's Death Rates to be Released

I'm not sure I'm thrilled to know about doctors' death rates. Granted, people want the best heart surgeons. However, I see two problems:

1. Doctors aren't going to want to treat the riskiest patients. That would lower their scores. Do we want good Doctors either shunned because they treat riskier patients or to stop treating the riskiest patients all together? I think not.

2. What happens if these success rates become rankings - and two comparable doctors become one sought after doctor and one guy you get stuck with because the second doctor loses one more patient out of every 500? It could be that success rates are very close, even if their rankings aren't.

Everyone deserves to know just how reliable their doctors are, but sometimes numerical ratings aren't going to be the best measure. Any measure must include what kinds of cases these doctors are taking and they shouldn't become some giant ranking system like a high school class hoping to get into college. Perhaps another measure would be more appropriate - such as a letter ranking from the state. That system could be based on whether or not the surgery worked, if the person survived and how bad the patient cases were.


Anonymous said...

Maybe they can add a degree of difficulty to the score, like diving.

Ryan Adams said...


Anonymous said...

I've been around doctors my whole life. My father works with surgeons, my mother's best friends are doctors, and my friend's girlfriend is training to be a doctor and you would not believe the horror stories. I don't know what the answer is, but it seems like if doctors would spend less time complaining about malpractice and more time actually policing their profession for the bad apples, it would go a long way.

As my father says, you have to kill about 12 people through negligence before you even get called in for a gentle warning, and then they'll just let you perform surgery on homeless people for a while since they have no known relatives to complain if you screw up and kill them.

Laurel said...

doctor's are licensed by the state, right? but from what Anon 9:10 said, it doesn't sound like there's much if any oversight from the licensing board, and the main overseers (such as they are) is the professional orgs. is that true? if so, what are the obstacles to change?

Greg said...

I think they should publish the number of malpractice payouts, not death rates.

To Laurel's question, one of the bigger obstacles to change is the American Medical Assoc, who won't reprimand the small number of bad apples. About 5% of doctors have 2 or more malpractice payouts -- and they account for 50% of all malpractice payouts overall. Nor does the AMA do anything to keep over-worked, groggy-eyed residents from performing serious medical procedures on two hours of sleep.

Another huge obstacle is the insurance industry, who wants to shift the culpability for the malpractice from the doctors to the victims and their lawyers.

Ryan Adams said...

I'm pretty sure malpractice information is already published, at least according to my biologist friend who's about to apply for med school.

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