Jeremy Laurance: To fairly rate doctors we need to go beyond their bedside manner
Tuesday 03 May 2011
I happened across one of the those "best second opinion" medical websites the other day – the Trip Advisors for the health community that rate doctors according to the opinions of patients treated by them. I clicked on a surgeon I knew and a column of remarks from patients verging on the adulatory appeared. "Trustworthy", "careful", "professional", "brilliant". I know him as a consummate professional; decent, charming, empathetic. He has only one drawback – he is not very good at surgery. I know this from his colleagues who tell me that as a result he has moved into teaching – at which he excels – and reduced his clinical work. There is no suggestion that he is incompetent or dangerous, merely that he is at the lower end of the surgical skill scale. Somebody has to be, after all.
What struck me was the divergence between what I happen to know about this particular surgeon and what anyone reading the website would know. Patients' opinions are an essential part of rating doctors – but they inevitably rely on the visible attributes, the bedside manner, which can be publicly assessed. To get a richer picture we need deeper knowledge – and despite years of effort we still don't have it. The only specialty to have shown real commitment to greater transparency is cardiac surgery, where monitoring of death rates was introduced in 1998. Two weeks ago the first survey of deaths following bowel cancer surgery was published, showing a seven-fold variation between NHS trusts. That is the kind of deeper, richer information patients need, but it has taken 13 years since the cardiac surgeons first provided it. How long must we wait before the rest follow suit?
Life & Style blogs
Who is Teresa Fidalgo? Debunking the fake ghost story that's got Instagram spooked
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Ukip's official health spokesperson: 'Honestly, I have no experience in health whatsoever'
Deliberately urinating before sex can increase risk of urinary tract infections
Doctors to trial 29-point checklist for elderly patients facing 'unavoidable' death
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 Syrian refugee child beaten by Istanbul Burger King manager for eating customer’s leftover food
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...