The Value and Effectiveness of Physician Report Cards

Dr. David Nash writes in Med Page Today that “While some proponents of report cards believe that their value lies primarily in bringing about quality improvement at the hospital level, just think how much greater the impact would be if cardiologists used them for guidance in making referrals. With surgical errors continuing at an alarming rate – according to one report, 80 “never events” per week in the nation’s operating rooms – it seems appropriate to take a more critical look at our “business as usual” practices.” According to Nash, the problem lies with the physicians who routinely ignore these report cards in making referrals. He writes, “authors David L. Brown, Arnold M. Epstein and Eric Schneider found that although almost all cardiologists (94%) were aware of cardiac surgeon report cards, a mere 25% reported being moderately or substantially influenced by them in their referral decisions. Further, 75% of cardiologists said that they did not discuss these report cards with any of their patients – and, shockingly, only 34% reported that the quality of the cardiac surgeon to whom they most commonly refer was among the best available.” The medical community has the data to make sound referral decisions but they fail to use it. That’s a systemic problem which ultimately affects the patient and their safety.

Holly Haines