Saturday, February 7, 2009

Appraising Art and Medicine

You have reluctantly left the blogosphere bubble for an afternoon to view a special exhibit at an art museum. You join a crowd who is gawking at a towering marble sculpture. Is it a true masterpiece or simply the work of a talented local art student? How do you accurately assess the work’s worth and quality? Even art scholars may not be able to agree on the piece’s value or if the work is counterfeit. If there is no sure way to measure its value, should we resort instead to using the sculpture’s weight as a quality surrogate just because it is easy to measure? This is ludicrous, but this is exactly what’s happening in the medical field. Let’s not resort to misleading and inaccurate methods of measuring medical quality because we haven’t figured out yet how to do it right. Each year, physicians and hospitals are subjected to still more ‘quality’ initiatives which burden the medical community without improving medical performance. After 3 years of participating in Medicare’s PQRI (Physician Quality Reporting Initiative) program, I can state with confidence that it has cost my practice $$$, wasted lots of our time and failed to help a single patient. It’s all a game but I haven’t figured out yet who wins.

The next time you are in your physician’s office, ask about the various government and insurance company quality programs. If any of you find a doctor who supports these programs, contact me STAT and I’ll post your comments.

Next posting, true medical quality which can’t be measured.

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