The New York State legislature is considering legislation that would require health insurance companies that rate doctors to do so primarily based on the quality of patient care they provide, rather than on how cost-efficient they might be.

This issue, which has been tagged with the emotionally-tinged label of "physician profiling," seeks to create some consumer- friendly ground rules around the growing interest by health insurance companies in providing physicians ratings and rankings. The fear of both consumers and physicians is that the insurers will give high ratings to doctors who see the most patients, write the fewest prescriptions and make the fewest referrals -- all good things in the eyes of an insurance company, but not necessarily good things for doctors and their patients.

Creating a credible and fair system for rating and comparing physicians is an area of huge opportunity, but as this legislation shows, it's also a minefield. The recent move by Zagat's into physician ratings is a gutsy one, but if they get it right, it will be worth all the pain. We're monitoring this issue, and expect it to be on the agenda for our next Health Content conference, October 27, 2008. Save the date!

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