There have been many studies over the years measuring the care hospitals provide to patients. Few studies have measured how individual doctors provide medical care. The Wisconsin Collaborative For Healthcare Quality recently revealed the results of their new study that publicly measured the care provided by individual doctors. The results show public disclosure of how individual doctors provide care resulted in improved healthcare by doctors. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, I am encouraged by these results of this study and would like to see similar public disclosure measures implemented in the future on a broader scale.
The premise of the Wisconsin Collaborative is quite simple: to improve quality healthcare, you must measure it. Led by Professor Geoffrey Lamb of the Medical College of Wisconsin, the latest Collaborative study compared medical care given to diabetic patients by physician practices belonging to the collaborative with the care given by physician in Iowa, South Dakota and national performance measures. The study found an improvement by members in the collaborative in every measure. Dr. Lamb observed "[t]he thing that really impressed me is the people who performed the lowest when they started had the greatest improvement." Simply put, "[t]hey cared where they were in ranking."
The fact many doctors improved the care they provided when they were ranked is quite telling. Publicly disclosing how doctors perform on specific measures results in better medical care. This should, in turn, result in lower medical errors and less medical malpractice claims. Less medical mistakes and less malpractice claims is a win for both patient advocates (like myself) who want better medical care and tort reformers who want fewer malpractice claims.
There are obstacles, however, that will make publicly disclosing individual care by doctors difficult to implement across the country. Many doctors will be highly reluctant, if not strongly against, having the care they provide publicly measured and ranked. This is particularly true among those doctors who are concerned the care they provide will be ranked lower many of their peers.
Another obstacle of publically ranking physician care is concern that the information may be used against them in medical malpractice suits. This is a legitimate concern. However, there are limitations that can be placed on the use of this information, including when (if ever) this information could be admissible evidence at trial. If the information is never admissible at trial, this would effectively eliminate concerns the information could be used against doctors in malpractice suits. However, even if this information was bared at trial, there will still be doctors who will be against having their care publicly ranked. Whether this opposition will ultimately prevent an expansion of publicly ranking care provided by doctors remains to be seen.
Journal Sentinel, Measuring Quality Improves Doctors' Care, Study Finds, October 22, 2011.