Blog | Wednesday, June 13, 2012

QD: News Every Day--Do patients value board certification in their physicians?

A physician wanted to know if the average person really values having a doctor who is board certified, and took matters into his own hands to measure that.

The researcher, a Cleveland anesthesiologist, wanted to reproduce results from a public poll done in 2003 that showed that adults valued board certification. But the researcher pointed out that respondents to that survey were read a definition of board certification and then asked if they wanted their doctors to be certified.

The researcher wanted to assess whether respondents would spontaneously say the same thing in response to an open-ended question about what qualities they value in a physician.

Adults entering a convenience store in residential suburban Cleveland were surveyed. A total of 101 people were questioned (168 were approached, for a non-response rate of 39%).

Surveyors were physicians dressed in street clothing, who approached people with a single question: "I am doing a one-question survey and would like your opinion, please." Those who agreed were asked, "When you go to a physician for medical care, what factors, considerations, or decisions, in the order of importance to you, lead you to go to or stay in the care of this physician versus getting care from any other physician."

The study appeared in the summer issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, a publication of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

Respondents could give up to six reasons for choosing a physician. Specific responses in the order of most frequent were:
--liked the doctor,
--liked the quality of care,
--had a long-standing relationship, and
--care was covered by insurance or was pro bono.

The author opined, "None of the respondents mentioned board-certification status or specific educational background, such as U.S. vs. foreign medical graduate, or specific residency program. Apparently, none of them considered these factors important enough to mention in an open-ended response, without prompting. Instead, they thought about how the physician related to or treated them, as well as referral sources, cost, and availability. Apparently, patients are not troubled by lack of confidence in their own assessment or that of their referring physicians or other advisors, and thus did not feel a need to seek any validation from a certifying agency."

The journal is published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which opposes the current requirement of and organizations behind maintenance of certification. The American College of Physicians supports recertification and has programs, products and services that help physicians maintain it. Naturally, not every ACP member agrees with the need for recertification.