Health IT

Is reduced patient trust the cost of greater transparency for physician performance, hospital ratings?

“Trust needs to be based on reality not fantasy,” said Marshall Allen, who covers patient safety for ProPublica.

3330967553_cd1a9e4db8A Health Datapalooza panel session sharing insights on how to rate physicians and hospitals tapped a variety of well placed people to address that question, (except, unfortunately, a hospital representative). But once it opened up to audience questions, panelists got thrown a thorny curve ball: for all the merits of providing more information for people to factor into healthcare decisions, starting with the Institute of Medicine’s groundbreaking publication, To Er is Human more than 16 years ago were they not also eroding patients’ trust in their doctors and hospitals?

Dr. Mark Friedberg a practicing internist who also work for RAND Corp., answered this way.

“I don’t think it is bad, necessarily, to have a little erosion of trust if it’s deserved… As long as the report is valid, reliable and can be used to push providers to achieve better outcomes, I’m not so much concerned about erosion of trust as presentation of data. Are [the reports] needlessly generating concern?”

Marshall Allen, who covers patient safety for ProPublica and was part of a team that produced a Surgeon Scorecard report, which published the complication rates for roughly 17,000 surgeons who perform eight common elective procedures, was a little more blunt.

“Trust needs to be based on reality not fantasy.” He added that if patients are given a false impression of the risk level for a procedure then they will make uninformed choices that they might otherwise not make if they had access to more information.