Listener: Why Can't We Compare Doctors?

Meanwhile, Andy Wardlaw, a TV editor from the land of KPCC and KCRW, writes:

When I read the New Yorker article you linked to about doctors' success in fighting cystic fibrosis, I got pretty angry. Doctors' success rates aren't recorded and compared? So how is there competition in the marketplace? It seems doctors must largely earn their business based on their bedside manner, not their medical results, so long as their medical results aren't miserable.

It also seems strange this isn't a more common topic of discussion. I mean, this is one of the major complaints about our educational system: it's very hard to judge which teachers are good and which are bad, and who should be fired and who should get a raise. But at least there, we get a healthy debate.

Seriously, this makes me mad. In my job, I worry about getting fired. Not "stay up all night" worried, but there's enough pressure that I can't ever think my job is easy. I have to dig in, find the unobvious solution. If a co-worker does something faster or better than I did, I pay attention because I don't want to be left behind. And, I can tell you, I'm a better editor because of it.

Apparently, doctors don't do any of that. That's not to say their job is easy, but it seems that the stress comes from the wrong part of the job: Lawsuits, bureaucracy, paperwork, and so forth.

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