Top Docs 2008 Part I: Who to See
After searching painstakingly, sometimes desperately, for the best medical care in the world, every year thousands of patients hailing from Amman to Zurich pack their bags for Boston, Massachusetts: home to cutting-edge research teams, prestigious med schools, and a list of top-ranked hospitals longer than your femur. And when these medical pilgrims check in for treatment, odds are they’ll be far savvier consumers than you, the native Bostonian in the next bed over.
“We are blessed with a lot of excellent healthcare,” says Dr. Thomas H. Lee, head of the Boston-based physicians group Partners Community HealthCare. “But people tend to presume a general equality of hospitals and doctors, which isn’t always the case, even in this city.”
So, where to start? While a Zagat guide to Boston healthcare hardly seems forthcoming (“Regulars rave about the ‘great IV drips,’ but give bedside manner ‘a big thumbs-down'”), there’s still a staggering amount of consumer information out there—from U.S. News & World Report‘s annual hospital rankings to Consumer Reports‘ newly launched Health Ratings Center. For those who prefer hard-core data, websites like Hospital Compare and the Leapfrog Group [see “How Hospitals Get Rated“] compile reams of federal stats and voluntary reporting that can show, for example, how many heart bypass operations an individual hospital performs annually and how well its patients fare afterward.
Physician ratings are harder to come by, partly because what makes a good doctor is in the nuances—diligence, caring—as much as the numbers. But peer surveys and patients’ feedback are increasingly attempting to fill in the blanks, whether for the M.D. report cards that consumer-review group Angie’s List introduced this spring, or for this magazine’s own Top Doctors list [see “How M.D.s Get Graded“].
Just bear in mind that all these rankings, stats, and surveys are a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves. Use them to spark questions and explore the possibilities in your search for not “The Best” healthcare provider, but the best one for you and your family.
The case for community hospitals
Why the beyond-city-limits lifesavers may be right for you.
Where to Get…
A great doctor’s recommendation after you’ve looked everywhere else.