The Chicago Tribune reports that a new tool is available to help you choose a doctor. For decades patients have had to rely on word of mouth and insurance listings to choose their physicians. Both of those sources can offer incomplete information, and leave a prospective patient frustrated and just going to whatever doctor has an opening. Most doctors are quite good at what they do and are compassionate people who want to help their patients. But some are not. And going to one of the bad ones can result in suffering personal injury. Just like you would want details about a contractor and how she compares to other contractors in town before having her work on your house, you should want to know about a doctor and how she compares to her peers before she works on you. Having that information could even help you avoid becoming a victim of medical malpractice. Treatment Tracker is a tool to find the information you have been looking for.
The Tribune reports that the purpose of the new tracker is to allow patients to compare health providers with one another based newly released information regarding Medicare Part B. ProPublica, the news agency that created the tracker, used data released by the Centers for Medicaid Services last month that explains the payments made by the agency to 880,000 health care professionals who cared for beneficiaries of Medicare Part B in 2012. The services included in this data are:
*Services delivered to seniors and the disabled by doctors, optometrists, physical therapists, and some other medical practitioners *Ambulance mileage *Lab tests *Outpatient services *Drugs administered
ProPublica entered this data into an interactive application that allows you to search for doctors in your area. Of course, not all doctors are listed because not all doctors serve enough Medicare Part B patients to be included in the data. However, even if your doctor is not included in the data you can at least compare what your doctor is doing in your case up against what other doctors are doing in your area.
To that end, the Tribune provides some questions in its report that you should keep in mind when using the tool. These include:
**Does your doctor perform more services and order more tests per patient than others in his or her specialty and state? Is your doctor’s cost per patient higher than peers? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, you may want to ask questions to be sure you are not being over treated. Mechanics face the unfortunate stereotype of being the ones who will sell an uninformed consumer services he does not really need, but some unscrupulous people are like that in any profession. If you think your doctor is ordering too many tests you may want to look for a second opinion to be sure they are necessary.
**Are the most common services and treatments chosen by your doctor similar to others in the same specialty and state? If so, find out why? It could be that your doctor is very good, and on the cutting edge, and you will have to decide if you want to be a test case. On the other hand, your doctor using treatments that other doctors do not use could be a signal that your doctor is behind the times and not using the best treatments currently available.
**If you need a procedure, does your doctor have much experience performing it? More experience generally equals better outcomes for patients.
This tool cannot prevent all malpractice. But having more data so you can be an informed consumer can only help.
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