Friday, February 13, 2009

Part of what's wrong with Healthcare

I'm sure that everyone out there has their own opinions on health care and what's wrong or right with it and what does or doesn't need fixing. Now that I finally have a job with benefits (starting next month -- the benefits, not the job), and am no longer obligated to seek all of my medical care through the student health clinic, I decided I ought to find a new Primary Care Provider to meet with and talk about my persistent, nagging, discomfort in my side. Given that I work for the largest healthcare provider in the state, I have a wide variety of doctors I could choose from. How to decide?

Someone I know suggested contacting the insurance company's "advocates" as they could help me find a doctor near me who was taking new patients, etc. I called them today and told them I was a new patient and needed some help choosing a doctor. I asked them if they had any quality measures or feedback from other patients that might help me in making my choice. The first answer was "no". The second answer was "yes, but we don't share that." The third answer was "Don't worry, though, because if anyone complains we really do care and try to resolve their complaint."

So basically, they told me that while they DO, in fact, have information about which doctors are better than others, they can't use that information to help me, their customer. But don't worry, because if you do choose poorly and have a problem (remember these are health problems we're talking about, not car problems), they really will do all they can to resolve my complaints. Unless, of course, my complaint is that they won't tell me who the best doctors are.

I looked around on the internet and found one site with doctor reviews (, and the doctor they ended up recommending to me, based on location and the fact that he was taking new patients, had only one review, which was very positive. Another site someone mentioned to me is Angie's List (ala Craig's List), but unlike Craig's list, it is not free for consumers. Not tons of help, but better than nothing, I guess.

I just can't see how it isn't in the insurance provider's interest to funnel more patients to the doctors that do the best job, whether in terms of patient results or satisfaction, or in terms of cost effectiveness. It seems like somebody ought to be benefitting here, right? If not, where's the motivation for the doctor to do a better job? Just in the goodness of her heart? Not to say doctors don't want the best for their patients, but if there's no reward for being better, why try to be anything but average?


Rachie said...

I'm totally jealous of your health insurance. I've had a cold before so no insurance companies will take me on.

Star said...

If it helps... If a Dr gets a lot of complaints or just serious ones they are kicked off of your health insurance panel so they are no longer participating. That is incentive for some to do a good job. :) This of course coming from your friend who works for your health insurance company. I will defend them always. :)

j said...

@Star: Yes, I can understand that the fear of being booted from the health insurance panel is a real thing that hopefully prevents doctors from really messing up. However, it just seems like more information for patients about which doctors do a good job would be really helpful. Especially if it was about choosing doctors for specific conditions and/or demographic groups.