In a development that I would normally welcome without any reservation, the wonderful news and investigation website ProPublica has just launched a new service called “Vital Signs” about doctors.
Today we’re launching a project called Vital Signs that puts the most important information from across all of our health care projects in one easy-to-use place, and can alert you when we get new information or when something happens you should know about right away, for example if your provider is now paid more per patient than 90 percent of peers, which may be a sign of overtreatment or use of more costly services.
Our health care databases, including Dollars for Docs and Prescriber Checkup, have long been among the most popular features of our site, and are a key part of the mission of our data team — to help people use data to make better choices and live better lives. We’ve spent years collecting, cleaning and analyzing data about hundreds of thousands of doctors and other health professionals across several different interactive databases. Vital Signs lets you see what matters most across all of them, and dig deeper to explore even more data.
My only, and highly limited question, is whether there is a risk that patients will look up their doctor and misinterpret the data. Now, this is much more reliable that a Yelp review, or other subjective info.
So, my answer, is that doctors should all look themselves up, welcome and perhaps encourage questions from their patients about the data, and respond with candor and openness.
In return, we patients have to remember that these kid of tools do not necessarily fully explain data, and that these tools should generally be considered the beginning of a conversation, rather than a replacement for it.
I would also encourage major medical institutions to look at the data and see what might be needed to introduce, explain, and contextualize it. Indeed, they might find things that they need to know about, but did not!
This all takes time, but in the end it can strenghten partnering, which in the end both saves time and improves quality.