Report Cards Might Improve Health Care Quality
"Giving consumers information about quality and price" for individual surgeons might "lead to better medicine," provided that they "help push out poor-performing doctors," Wall Street Journal columnist David Wessel writes in an opinion piece. According to Wessel, most U.S. patients select surgeons based on advice from their primary care physicians or at random from their health plan networks, although several states for more than 10 years "have been issuing public report cards on individual surgeons that show the rates of death and complication of their heart bypass patients."
The report cards "remain surprisingly controversial" in terms of their benefits, but a recent Harvard School of Public Health study found heart bypass surgeons who receive low scores are more likely to leave the field than those who receive higher scores, Wessel writes. According to the study, more than 20% of heart bypass surgeons who scored in the lowest quarter of report cards for New York state left the field within two years of the release of the study, compared with 5% of those who scored in the highest quarter, Wessel writes.
Wessel adds that other studies indicate report cards on hospitals might "have a big effect even if their consumers don't heed them" because facilities that receive low scores often sought to improve their quality to protect against "harm to their image" and "harm to their fundraising efforts" (Wessel, Wall Street Journal, 7/6).