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What is “physician quality” and how is it measured?

Written by Randy K. Hawkins, May 13, 2021.

The word “quality” is often used in healthcare, but it is rarely defined. However, when quality is a component of comparative analysis, it needs a working definition to be meaningful.

Consider the term “physician quality.” What does it mean and how is it defined? Is it simply a qualitative assessment or are data elements and metrics available for quantitative analysis and scoring? If data is used, which elements are selected? How is each metric weighted? What might a scoring system suggest? Whose scoring system or quality tool is the best?

These are just a few of the many questions surrounding physician quality and there is no consensus on any of the answers. That makes it extremely difficult to compare one physician to another and nearly impossible to compare physicians using different tools or methodologies.

If quality is only loosely defined and there is no agreement on data sets or the weighting and scoring of variables, can physician quality be that important? A growing body of research and the experience of employers, patients, and payers support the premise that physician quality matters.

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