New Study: Attributes Often Used in Choosing Doctors Are Mostly Unrelated to Clinical Quality

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<p>Much of the information available to patients when selecting their physicians is a poor predictor of the quality of care those doctors deliver, a new <a href="/publications/journal-article/2010/sep/associations-between-physician-characteristics-and-quality">Commonwealth Fund–supported study</a> finds. </p>
<p>Published in the new <em>Archives of Internal Medicine</em>, the study finds that such physician attributes as medical school attended, years of experience, and malpractice claims—which consumers are often encouraged to use in choosing doctors—do not correlate with good-quality care. "This research highlights a serious problem for health care 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," said Anne-Marie J. Audet, M.D., the Commonwealth Fund's Vice President for Health System Quality and Efficiency. </p>
<p>In the analysis of more than 10,000 Massachusetts doctors, RAND Corporation and University of Pittsburgh researchers used 124 indicators from RAND's Quality Assessment Tools system to determine what, if any, relationship existed between physicians' characteristics and physicians' performance on various quality measures like giving the proper medications and recommending the right screening tests and follow-up care. Overall, researchers found that a physician's attributes had little relationship with the quality of care they provided, although board certification was mildly associated with quality. </p>
<p>"We need to raise standards for information about how well doctors are doing at delivering care," Audet said. "Patients need access to accurate, relevant data that provide an assessment of how physicians perform based on clinical quality measures." <br /><br /></p>