Thursday, July 5, 2007

Asking docs about death data

I conducted a survey of 15 doctors. It was unscientific and if you must know one of the respondents was drunk. (It’s only b/c he drank in the sun at a BBQ and not b/c he probably drank a dozen drinks.) My “research” focused on a much-publicized event that took place last month – the government published data on the Internet about hospital death rates to educate patients and “invigorate competition”. (Check out the site.) The methodology they’re using is apparently sophisticated, and they have tons of data at their disposal. So is this a good thing that’s empowering consumers and making healthcare more transparent? Or is this data being used in a way that’s not appropriate? Maybe we’re not supposed to research hospitals they way we research bars on Metromix? Of the five doctors who responded to my survey, three were strongly opposed to publishing the data, calling it “ill-advised”, “stupid” and “bullshit” (that would be the BBQ doc). They felt the data wouldn’t account for how sick patients were when they went in and that it would be too tough for most people to properly interpret. One doc was undecided. One doc – the only Canadian in my “study” – was for it: “Transparency is important and this will result in greater responsibility being taken by doctors and hospitals and inevitably help patients and their choices in the long run.” What do you think?

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