Background: Public disclosure of physician-specific performance data is becoming increasingly common. However, the influence that public reporting of outcome data has on the delivery of care by physicians who are being assessed is not well understood.
Methods: Since 1994, the New York State Department of Health has collected and periodically published observed and risk-adjusted patient mortality rates for all interventional cardiologists practicing coronary angioplasty in the state. To assess the influence that these reports exert on the physicians being monitored, a questionnaire was administered in an anonymous manner to all interventional cardiologists included in the most recent report.
Results: The vast majority (79%) of interventional cardiologists agreed or strongly agreed that the publication of mortality statistics has, in certain instances, influenced their decision regarding whether to perform angioplasty on individual patients. Physicians expressed an increased reluctance to intervene in critically ill patients with high expected mortality rates. Among the respondents, 83% agreed or strongly agreed that patients who might benefit from angioplasty may not receive the procedure as a result of public reporting of physician-specific patients' mortality rates. Additionally, 85% believed that the risk-adjustment model used in the Percutaneous Coronary Interventions (PCI) in New York State 1998-2000 report is not sufficient to avoid punishing physicians who perform higher-risk interventions.
Conclusions: Public reporting of physician-specific outcome data may influence physicians to withhold procedures from patients at higher risk, even when physicians believe that the procedure might be beneficial. This phenomenon should be recognized in the design and administration of physician performance profiles.