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What’s below is the result of a challenge: can a company that helps patients find the right doctor identify the best physicians over all, or at least come close? (You can also go here for a list of top cardiologists.)
Last year, I wrote a magazine profile of a company called Grand Rounds, which aims to meticulously comb through data on physicians – everything from what they prescribe to the wait times in their parking lots—to match patients with the right doctor for them. The company’s founder, Owen Tripp, even used the service himself when a type of tumor was fund in his ear. “It’s not that there aren’t good doctors, and it’s certainly not that there aren’t enough of them,” Tripp said last week at the Forbes Healthcare Summit. The problem is measurement.
OK, smart guy, I said. If you can tell which doctors are better, give me a list of the best. Grand Rounds uses a computer model based on publicly available and proprietary data, including administrative claims data from insurers, practice affiliations, board certifications, disciplinary actions, and academic publications. These data don’t tell how a doctor’s patients do, but they do allow the company to look at how doctors were trained, who they work with, what they prescribe, and procedures they perform. For instance, in breast cancer oncology, better physicians are more likely to perform genomic tests. In contrast, in cardiology, ordering more tests is a sign of lower physician quality. The lists we’re publishing today, in breast cancer oncology and cardiology, are the result of using a machine learning algorithm on many such measures.
There are limitations to this analysis. Grand Rounds says it misses excellent doctors who belong on it. Efforts to find outside experts who could vet Grand Rounds’ algorithms were unsuccessful. Like many efforts in machine learning or artificial intelligence, the results emerge from a black box that’s hard for outsiders to evaluate. And Grand Rounds is a private company, with the skepticism it entails. But this list, and the other, are at the least thought-provoking. And I can confirm, based on years of reporting, that many of the physicians included are indeed the best in their fields.
Sarah Hedgecock and Ellie Kincaid contributed to this story.
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