Healthcare in the hands of the consumer is a common theme in today’s narrative on care delivery. With choices, price comparisons and reviews, the theory goes, patients can make smarter decisions about their healthcare and which doctor they choose. Because of this, ratings systems are popping up across the country, managed by various organizations, including insurers. And the trend’s got some physicians worried. A ratings system in Minnesota is being opposed by the state’s medical association, calling it unreliable and misleading. In the news recently, physicians in California are up in arms over a ratings system created by insurer Blue Shield. In June 2010, Blue Shield of California unveiled a “evidence-based” website rating hundreds of doctors and major medical groups throughout California, according to the website California watch.

Along those lines, Blue Shield created scores that are a mash-up of measures that conventional medicine has come to accept. They include measures of whether doctors are handing out antibiotics for the common cold, a move considered problematic since it is unnecessary and can give rise to antibiotic resistance.

The doctor rating website also looks at whether doctors are giving asthma patients medicine (good), testing diabetic patients annually for kidney function (good) and giving MRIs to back-pain patients (bad). The latter is considered inefficient because lower back pain tends to resolve just as well without expensive medical care, according to studies.

But the California Medical Association withdrew its support before the site was even launched, calling it seriously flawed. The association soon followed with a lawsuit accusing Blue Shield of creating an “an economic profiling scheme.”

Details of the story behind the lawsuit are here

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