One league away from disaster

14 Sep 2009

I HAVE A GREAT IDEA to improve the health of Australians, and it goes to the heart of the problem: the performance of doctors. The profession has been operating free of scrutiny for too long and must be made much more transparent. As consumers we need to be assured that our local medico is up to standard.

How can we gain such an assurance? Easy: governments should measure and publicise, preferably on a website, the performance of doctors. What is their diagnosis strike rate? How many times do patients keep coming back with the same complaint? Doctors would get marks for having healthy patients, and lose marks when patients don’t get much better. If the mortality trendline leaps up off the chart then the surgery should be listed as a failed practice and everyone struck off. Higher scoring doctors, on the other hand, should be paid more.

Sure, there might be some downsides. The tabloid media would trawl the data to construct and publish surgery league tables. Low scoring doctors would be dragged through the toxic swamp of talkback radio. Doctors would try to explain the complexity of health issues but no one would listen. A shame, but our right to know and choose must come first...

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