Here’s a list of attributes that define high quality physicians. This is not a controversial posting. After each entry, you will be nodding in agreement that it is an essential element of a high quality physician’s skill set. Here’s the unsolvable challenge. After reading each listing, decide how you could accurately rate a physician on the specific item and compare him to colleagues. I’ve been a physician for 20 years, and I have no idea how to do this. Perhaps, smarter folks can figure this out, since this is where true medical quality can be found, not in mindless, meaningless and downright dumb data and statistics.
Great physicians have many of the following skills and qualities.
- They are skilled at palpating abdomens and hearing subtle cardiac and pulmonary abnormalities with a stethoscope.
- They know when not to prescribe an antibiotic.
- They know when a symptom can be safely observed and not investigated immediately.
- They know whether a CAT scan finding should be ignored or pursued.
- They are expert communicators who sense when a patient harbors an additional concern.
- They have an adequate and current core of medical knowledge.
- They can skillfully manage a medical issue on the phone after hours.
- They understand and counsel that more consultants and tests often mean less care and healing.
- They tell the truth when a patient asks if the surgeon he has seen is the best choice.
- They are compassionate.
Of course, this list could be longer. The point is that what truly defines good and great doctors, can’t be calculated and entered on a spreadsheet. Don’t let the government or the insurance companies fool you on this one. Besides, are these institutions of such high quality that we should trust them to measure medical quality?
On the next posting, some physicians who might be too good to be true.