Do physician quality measures tell patients who’s a good doctor?

Not always.

Most quality measures are based on billable data, such as rate of breast or colon cancer screening, or in young women, the rates of chlamydia screening.

But do these numbers necessarily tell patients who are the best doctors?

Over at Better Health, Evan Falchuk has his doubts. He asserts that “the information is simply not valuable to consumers. Worse, I think it is deeply misleading. A medical group that does chlamydia screenings on 100% of its patients may be good or bad – or it just may be smart enough to know that if they do the state of Massachusetts will rate them with five gold stars. But consumers won’t be able to tell the difference.”

Again, doctors will respond to the incentives. If quality measures are used to tell the public which doctors are “good” or “bad,” you can bet that practices will do all they can to bring their numbers up, despite many of the measures’ flaws.

And there is no quality measure for time spent with patients, which perhaps is the most important trait patients look for in their physicians.