How Good Is Your Doctor?

Healthcare is a unique profession. It is considered not just a commodity but arguably, a right of every individual in the society. Compared with other service industry professions, there are some unique differences in training and practice of low  T.

Consumers know that the quality of most consumer products or services follow a bell shaped curve, wherein a few products are junk, few are exceptional and most are mediocre. Although, consumers understand this bell curve in consumer products, they don’t realize that the bell curve exists in doctors’ medical expertise. From a patient’s perspective the distribution of doctor’s knowledge appears to be like a shark fin, where most doctors are good but a few doctors are the experts. Some of this misconception stems from the fact that the waiting room is always full in most doctors’ offices. But is that the truth?

As a director on the board of National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), I have had the privilege of examining the scores of the graduates that match into residency training programs. Contrary to popular belief, we see a bell shaped curve in almost every aspect of our newly minted doctors’ applications (inset, blue curve). Similarly, we see the bell shaped curve in the results of our in-training exams during any residency or fellowship training (inset, blue curve).

Doctors are aware of this distribution of scores and while they acknowledge that the bell curve exists, they keep this information private and it never appears in public discussions. Few patients who know about this secret don’t want to acknowledge it for many reasons. If someone is forced to see a particular doctor through their insurance who lacks the expertise, they don’t want to acknowledge that their doctor is not skilled. Also, since medical profession is considered a noble profession and doctors holier than thou, patients continue to ignore the bell shaped curve. But should we? What could be more important that your own health?

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