Available data on doctors of little help

Sept. 14, 2010 at 1:57 AM
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NEW YORK, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Data on how well doctors deliver care, such as giving the right medications, are often impossible to find, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Anne-Marie Audet, vice president for health system quality and efficiency at the Commonwealth Fund in New York, says patients are urged to use research in selecting a physician -- but often the only information a patient has access to is what medical school they attended, years of experience and malpractice claims.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, finds medical school, years of experience and malpractice claims are poor predictors of the quality of care doctors provide.

"This research highlights a serious problem for healthcare consumers which is that we are currently looking for doctors who provide quality care in a vacuum -- with information that is not relevant and can even be misleading," Audet says in a statement. "We need to raise standards for information about how well doctors are doing at delivering care and ensure that patients have access to accurate, relevant data that provide an assessment of how physicians perform based on clinical quality measures."

Commonwealth researchers and colleagues at the Rand Corp. and the University of Pittsburgh used 124 indicators from Rand's Quality Assessment Tools system to determine what, if any, relationship existed between physicians' characteristics and physicians' performance.

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