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A medical check-up ... on doctors, not patients

Here's a health-related statistic that might reasonably grab the attention of patients and health consumers generally in Illinois and nationally: According to a recent government report, Americans miss out on about 30 percent of care that is recommended to treat their injuries and illnesses. Alternatively, the outcome in many instances is the ordering up of diagnostic tests that are unnecessary and can lead to inappropriate and dangerous follow-up procedures.

Although the debate focused on the specific causes underlying such realities has been complex and longstanding, a recent survey indicates that one contributing factor driving medical misdiagnosis, medication mistakes, surgical errors and other malpractice incidents is patients' inability to properly vet doctors.

That means this: Many people simply don’t know how to go about checking up on doctors -- examining their credentials, scrutinizing their experience, reviewing both accolades and complaints and so forth -- prior to making appointments and subsequently relying upon their advice.

That results in a wide variance in diagnostic and treatment outcomes in medical facilities across the country. Many more patients would receive better care, notes the combined organization The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, if they could more ably find relevant information about health care providers.

What that most centrally means, state researchers, is the ready ability to uncover data that compares doctors in various fields and specialties.

Things are improving, notes a recent media article on the subject. Some states are making it easier for consumers to peruse comparative data. Medicare administrators are working on relevant care information that is projected to be widely available online by the end of this year.

It hardly seems arguable that consumers’ increased access to medical data focused on treatment outcomes can be anything other than helpful. Enhanced transparency drives quality and should ultimately lead to improved patient outcomes and fewer instances of hospital errors and negligence.

Source: New Pittsburgh Courier, “Healthbeat … Before doctors check your vitals, check theirs,” Lauran Neergaard (Associated Press), July 21, 2014

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