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Reliability of Physician Report Cards in Question

Recently a study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that when it comes to patient safety, little progress has been made. Although safety has been a recent area of focus for many hospitals, the study found that nearly one in five patients were injured during their stay by doctors, nurses or hospital staff.

This was the first large scale examination of hospital mistakes since the 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine, which found that medical errors were responsible for 98,000 deaths and over one million injuries every year. Many of these deaths are caused by preventable infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that by some estimates up to 90,000 people die each year as a result of hospital acquired infections. Medical malpractice may also factor into some of these deaths.

Physician Profiling

According to U.S. News & World Report, health insurers have been issuing confidential “report cards” to physicians which evaluate their performance in handling chronic medical conditions. But many in the medical community have questioned the credibility of these evaluations.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the “report cards” similarly unreliable. The study also found that the use of these profiles “may foster an environment in which physicians can most easily avoid being penalized by avoiding or deselecting patients with high prior cost, poor adherence, or response to treatments.”

While the demand for information about doctors and hospitals may be there, and it may help consumers select the right physician, that information is difficult to come by. Ranking systems, whether for hospitals or individual doctors, are by and large in their infancy according to The New York Times. Another obstacle for patients is that much of the information compiled on physicians and hospitals is collected by government agencies, and not generally available to the public.

Working With an Attorney

Despite the emphasis on patient safety in hospitals around the country, mistakes frequently occur. If you have been injured by the negligence of a doctor or hospital staff, or by any act of medical malpractice, it is important to discuss your options with an experienced attorney. These cases can be complex and often require the consultation of experts to determine the full extent of your injuries.