Finding a quality doctor or hospital to handle your medical care is one of the most important decisions a consumer needs to make in regards to their health. However, because people have different needs and many factors can be used to determine “quality”, it’s hard to find a doctor that will meet your standards.
There are many websites (both from government and independent sources) that provide information, credentials and reviews to help consumers determine whether a physician or hospital will provide quality medical care. However, there are pros and cons in reviewing and evaluating these sources, and a consumer should take them into consideration before choosing a doctor.
Even before the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many government agencies (such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the American Medical Association) existed to help consumers find the appropriate medical care.
For example, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides the annual National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) which focuses on "national trends in the quality of health care provided to the American people" (42 U.S.C. 299b-2(b)(2)). The NHQR takes into consideration the following factors in reviewing medical care of physicians or hospitals:
Although these government websites typically offer an objective and unbiased view, these reviews do not take into consideration the reviews of those individuals who actually received medical care. When consumers describe “quality”, they may take into consideration subjective factors.
There are a range of non-governmental organizations that provide ratings and reviews of physicians and hospitals which are often provided by individuals. Although these reviews take into consideration personal opinions, the reviews are often not regulated. Furthermore, if a small group of individuals provide feedback on their medical care experience, the reviews can be skewed and may not reflect the opinions of the majority of individuals under the care of that physician.
It’s important for a consumer to consider all information available before making a decision in choosing a doctor. Individuals have different medical needs, so you must determine which factors are most important to you in selecting a physician.
Although there are numerous resources available, consumers must understand the benefits and risks in investigating those resources.
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