Every year, thousands of patients around California fill out surveys, answering basic questions about their experiences with their doctors.
Did he or she communicate well with the patient, explaining information and treatment options in a way that's easy to understand?
Were you able to see the doctor within 15 minutes of your scheduled appointment time?
Was the doctor's staff courteous and respectful?
These responses, packaged together, can be one useful measurement of a practice's overall level of care. But the data might be difficult to find, stashed away on websites the public might not know exist.
Today, information from the Patient Assessment Survey got the Consumer Reports treatment: The magazine's health offshoot, Consumer Reports Health, published the results of the surveys on 170 physician groups around the state, including 21 in Orange County. Red bar graphs indicate each group's overall score, based on what percentage of respondents gave that group a 9 or a 10, on a scale of 1 to 10, based on the overall care they received.
“This will help people make choices, but more important, it helps medical groups focus on what's important to individual patients,” said Maribeth Shannon, director of the Market and Policy Monitor Program at the California HealthCare Foundation, which published the Consumer Reports information on its website, CalQualityCare.org.
The foundation collaborated with CR for months on the project, and the ratings went live on the site at 3 a.m. today. The site also has information about hospitals and nursing homes, based on data collected by the nonprofit California Healthcare Performance Information System.
The augmented CalQualityCare.org will include another new feature: an interactive survey in which users can provide new input about their physicians. That will help provide another layer of feedback to a system that is becoming more transparent by the year.
Websites and apps like Yelp, Angie's List and HealthGrades also give patients a chance to weigh in, but many docs chafe at such models, saying patients often lack the technical expertise to evaluate their own level of care.
“Some of these things are far more critical to how your health care turns out than others,” Carmen Balber, executive director of the Santa Monica-based group Consumer Watchdog, said of the current information on the Patient Assessment Survey. “Did your doctor explain what's going on? Did he explain what's wrong? That's probably more important than if they were able to see you within 15 minutes of their appointment time.
“I don't think any of this data is useless to consumers. And what's important about it is, we know it's more reliable than Yelp, and various online forums. … I wouldn't say that this solves every patient's question about the quality of their physician, but it gives them more resources than they had before.”
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