Report cards for doctors

I have been looking at various articles on “social cooling”- a rather new term for “free speech chilling”. It means that you end up “self correcting” yourself each time you are faced with a situation. Hence, I see a stream of sterile bland statements from the profiles which makes it difficult to understand why they are conforming to “standards” of free speech.

I came across an interesting facet and I must admit that I wasn’t aware of this hair brained idea of ranking surgeons based on “safety”. Here’s a NYT opinion piece for the context:

The purpose of these report cards was to improve cardiac surgery by tracking surgical outcomes, sharing the results with hospitals and the public, and when necessary, placing surgeons or surgical programs on probation. The idea was that surgeons who did not measure up to their colleagues would be forced to improve.

Unarguably, the report cards backfired with disastrous consequences for the end users-patients:

They often penalized surgeons, like the senior surgeon at my hospital, who were aggressive about treating very sick patients and thus incurred higher mortality rates. When the statistics were publicized, some talented surgeons with higher-than-expected mortality statistics lost their operating privileges, while others, whose risk aversion had earned them lower-than-predicted rates, used the report cards to promote their services in advertisements.

In a related paper, this issue was highlighted:

[embeddoc url=”” viewer=”google”]

I have done no annotations but linking it from another link I found.

The author from the opinion article states a “survey”. There’s no context on the limitations of the survey or how it was “reported”. I wouldn’t lay too much emphasis on it though.

Report cards were supposed to protect patients by forcing surgeons to improve the quality of cardiac surgery. In many ways they have failed on this count. Ironically, there is little evidence that the public — as opposed to state agencies and hospitals — pays much attention to surgical report cards anyway. A recent survey found that only 6 percent of patients used such information about hospitals or physicians in making medical decisions.

This post was inspired from a picture I encountered on some website:

Is this even true?

I am not willing to dig deeper in it but I am not aware if this hair brained scheme is still operating.

Some interesting discussion on Slashdot.

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