Rating Your Doctor
Health provider posts doctor ratings to help patients make their picks.
When it comes to choosing a doctor, many people rely on word of mouth, reputation, or perhaps referrals.
The folks at Medica, Minnesota's second largest health plan, hope consumers will now factor 'stars' into their decision.
Medica has started posting doctor ratings on its web site, the result of a study of three years of medical claims data, analyzing how well doctors followed national standards for care.
Patients can see how their physician compares to others, one star for quality, a second star for efficiency.
"There's many factors that go into how a consumer makes a choice for just about anything, especially their doctor. That's a pretty intimate relationship and this is just another piece of information helps guide that choice," says Medica's Dr. Charles Fazio.
While many doctors encourage comparison shopping, some say when it comes to Medica's new rating system, the data is unreliable.
Dr. Benjamin Whitten practices internal medicine and is past president of the Minnesota Medical Association.
He says Medica misclassified many doctors' specialties and says the data applies more to clinics rather than individual doctors.
Whitten wants consumers to be informed, but urges patients to wary of the stars.
"We think it's incredibly important and we also think it's incredibly important to do it right," says Dr. Whitten. "Look at the data, talk it over with their physician, with their clinic, but they should ask Medica in the future to do reliability testing on this data."
Medica officials say they will continue to fine tune the data and are working with individual doctors to fix mistakes.
"Today is a beginning, I would like to see this get better incorporate outcomes and satisfaction data into this, make the tool better over time," says Dr. Fazio.
Medica officials say Minnesota physicians scored the best compared to their colleagues in other parts of the country that use the same rating system.
Medica looked at 9,400 doctors. 50 percent received two stars.
20 percent got one.
The rest either had no stars or there was not enough data to rate them.
The ratings program is called Premium Designation.
Not all Medica members have access to all doctors on the list.