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Super Lawyers under attack for their Super Doctors

Looks like Key Media didn’t stop at ‘Super Lawyers.’ They’ve got ‘Best Doctors’ and ‘Super Dentists’ publications for various states and metros. And like ‘Super Lawyers,’ ‘Best Doctors’ is being questioned. Is it a magazine about quality medical care or all about selling advertising?

Heres what News 8 in Dallas is reporting today following its investigation of Key Media’s Best Doctors for D Magazine a ‘magazine of Dallas covering the Dallas/Fort Worth region with editorial coverage from arts to politics:’

  • Dr. Volker Gressler of Richardson is a so-called ‘Super Doctor.’ But earlier that year, Gressler was the subject of what may be the largest malpractice verdict in Dallas County history. It was a total of $606 million, as a result of the death of William Jameson, who died from a chemotherapy overdose at Gressler’s clinic in 2004. A month after Jameson’s death, another patient died from a chemo overdose at Gressler’s clinic.
  • D does not check a doctor’s record for malpractice suits. ‘The task of researching every one of the lawsuits that our 640 doctors has faced would be a daunting task,’ according to D’s Executive Editor Tim Rogers. ‘It’s one, in fact, that would take so much time that we can’t do it.’
  • But checking malpractice suits really isn’t that difficult. News 8 did it in about 8 man hours at the Dallas county courthouse, discovering that 18 percent of D’s best doctors had been sued for malpractice or related causes over the last 10 years.
  • Rogers admits the ‘Best Doctors’ issue is designed to make money from the choice of the subject to the doctor on the cover. This year’s doctor’s issue bears a photo of gynecologist Dr. Deborah Fuller. ‘We like the way she looks,’ says Rogers. ‘We sit down with 20 pictures of doctors, the art department, the editors. We argue about what’s going to sell a magazine. Because again, what we do is sell magazines.’
  • Key Media is secretive about how its ‘Super Doctors’ are chosen. The company declined to be interviewed on camera about the process. News 8 submitted a list of questions about selection to a public relations person Key hired to talk to us, but those questions remained largely unanswered.
  • Rogers makes no pretense of conducting a scientific survey. ‘I’m not a scientist, I’m an editor,’ he said.
  • Medical ethicist, Arthur Caplan, of the University of Pennsylvania says an open survey of all respondents is suspect. ‘There’s every reason to be suspicious,’ says Caplan, who often appears on Good Morning America on medical ethics issues. ‘If you’re going to send out a survey and say we’re going to report the results and you can have your buddies vote, and you can have people round up votes for you and you can lobby at dinners and other places to get people to vote for you, then you’re not measuring necessarily quality, you’re starting to measure popularity.’
  • Rogers says the D survey is announced to hospital PR staffs before it is mailed to doctors. This allows them to stump for votes among their own staffs.
  • Doctors are offered the chance to buy an ad in D Magazine to ‘maximize their exposure’ when they’re notified they’ve been chosen as a ‘Best Doctor.’ It is the best selling issue of the year.

Super Lawyers feels strongly that they’re offering something of value. I’ve blogged about Super Lawyers in the past and received responses from Chuck Thell, President of Super Lawyers, directing me to Super Lawyers Facts, a brief ‘blog’ on New Jersey’s legal ethics and Super Lawyers.

If Super Lawyers and Super Doctors really wants to offer something of value to consumers, why not have an online rating system where the consumers of the doctor’s medical services and the lawyer’s legal services can rate them? Of course, we’ll hear the old argument consumers are too dumb to rate ‘professionals.’ And it may cut down on magazine ad buys by the professionals.

But consumers and business people are certainly capable of rating items such as:

  • Were you treated with dignity and respect?
  • Did you have to wait long at appointments?
  • Did the lawyer or doctor have friendly and competent staff?
  • Were your phone calls returned promptly?
  • Was the doctor or lawyer able to provide medical or legal explanations to you that you could understand?
  • Did the doctor or lawyer have time to answer the questions from you and your family members?

Today’s technology easily allows for such ratings and a response from the professional to any ratings they feel unfair. Why not do it?

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