What happens, however, when, after the surgery, Mrs. Jones’s arteritis is discovered and the rheumatologist must be consulted? Should Mrs. Jones just trust Dr. Smith’s recommendation or, through the fog of anesthesia and post-op pain, should she request internet access and log back into PhysicianRatings.com to find the best rheumatologist? And—egad—what happens if she finds that the consultant at St. Elsewhere General turns out to be number 10? What should this sick lady do?
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As an academic, I have spent most of my career rating things and I believe strongly in the overriding importance of quality in medical care. But if the basis of the rating system is flawed, any ratings that emerge will not be worth a dime. To my colleagues at the NYT, I would like to say that the ratings system you advocate will not be reliable, feasible, or useful.
Also, the next time you write about healthcare, please consult your physician. That way, we can work together to forge a system that we can all rate as fair.
Dr. Pisetsky is physician editor of The Rheumatologist and professor of medicine and immunology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.