When it’s time to see a doctor and you don’t know whom to use, most of us decide in one of two ways—either a friend recommends one or we choose from the list the insurer gives us. But, your friends might not know whether a doctor they think is good is in fact good or is good for you. And, using the insurer’s list is much like rolling the dice. There’s no telling what will turn up. Is there a better way?
Right now, there’s not a lot of good objective information available. Physician Compare is a new web site created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that helps you decide which doctor to use. The jury’s still out as to whether, over time, it will give you relevant and helpful information about the quality of doctors and patient experiences with doctors, including patient outcomes. Nursing Home Compare and Hospital Compare, other CMS web sites, have their limitations but are worth taking a look at.
Information on Physician Compare is still fairly limited, but Steve Findlay explains here that there’s a lot more to come and it could be very helpful. The other sites that rate doctors do not have outcomes data and can be misleading because their ratings can be based on just a few reviews.
The Informed Patient Institute (IPI), a non-profit that rates web sites that compare health care providers, has given Physician Compare a “C” rating, below other sites that rate physicians. It’s worth looking at the IPI site to get a sense of the range of sources that rate doctors in your state.
Until we come up with reliable physician ratings, you should ask your primary care doctor or another doctor you know and trust for physician recommendations. Once you have some names, visit Physician Compare and other sites reviewed by The Informed Patient Institute to see if you can get a better understanding of the doctors recommended. It’s about your health and your pocketbook. It’s worth the time to do the research.