Who is a good doctor? How do you know if you receive quality care? Unfortunately, patients by themselves can’t make that determination. Of course, we all want respectful and convenient care by an empathetic provider. What about the more technical questions? Since most people are not well versed in how their bodies work, it can be hard for us to tell if the healthcare we are receiving is in line with appropriate standards. It’s somewhat akin to what our mechanics tell us. If we need a new carburetor, I guess we need a new carburetor. How are we to tell? How would we know if the carburetor is repaired (As you can see I have no clue what a carburetor is).
This is part of the power differential in medicine. We trust doctors and hospitals and clinics to do right and well by us. But since the services they offer are so technical and they are the experts, it can be hard to judge if they are truly serving us. The poor are especially vulnerable in this regard. They often lack health literacy, are conditioned to not feel entitled to ask questions, and often are in rushed, hectic medical settings where effective, nurturing patient-provider relationships are far and few between.
This is why transparency about quality data of healthcare organizations that serve them is so vital. CMS and private insurance already do this. But what about the 13.3 million patients in California who are on Medi-Cal, the state formulation of Medicaid? They deserve high quality care also. But to be able to do that, they first need accessible, understandable information about the quality of the care provided by local FQHCs (safety net clinics) and IPAs (physician groups).
The Center for Health Journalism and the Gehr Center for Health Systems Science, where I am faculty, have collaborated on an effort to get this internal quality data released to the public. Read on and see why a healthcare quality ‘report card’ that patients can use to ascertain the quality of the care they receive is so essential: