I read USA Today when I’m traveling since it’s frequently distributed at hotels and I usually find it to be pretty good. The stories are easy to digest and reasonably accurate. Today’s cover story Qforma’s Most Influential Doctors is a weird exception. I don’t know what USA Today is thinking.
Essentially, Qforma analyzes relationships among physicians to help pharmaceutical companies determine which doctors have the most influence on their peers’ prescribing patterns. That’s potentially important to pharma companies as they allocate the efforts of their sales forces. For example, a doctor who writes a moderate number of prescriptions but influences others is potentially as or more important than a high prescriber.
For whatever reason, USA Today has decided that patients should seek out these influential doctors, so it’s published the “exclusive database” at influentialdoctors.usatoday.com. But much of the cover story is devoted to casting doubt on the value of this database, and a whole sidebar article, Medical data collection has its detractors also takes such approaches to task. It leads off in trashy, tabloid style.
The Most Influential Doctors listing offers a rare window into the pricey bazaar of medical information that’s available to anyone who can pay for it.
(After reading that sentence it’s kind of funny to see that “The database was provided to USA TODAY at no cost.”)
USA Today’s point seems to be that since it’s hard to find good information on physician quality, it’s valuable to add another resource, even without any real conviction that it will be helpful or how.
The goal of the USA TODAY-Qforma project is to give patients a resource to use when searching for medical care.
Personally, I don’t think it’s useful.May 14, 2009