One difficult question I get occasionally is "do you have rankings for doctor/lawyers?"
I think what people are expecting is a Consumer Reports-like ranking of these two professions, but unfortunately, we don't have anything exactly like that. We do have some resources for doctors, but lawyers are different.
A patron asked me to help her find lawyer rankings this past week. I did find a few websites showing some rankings, but I had no idea how reliable any of them were, and none of them got down to the local level needed by a patron in a small public library. Another thing I found were lots of articles talking about lawyers suing websites about their rankings, so that might explain the scarcity of resources.
In the end, two resources appeared promising, but only one ended up helping:
- The American Bar Association has a Lawyer Locater, which is powered by martindale.com and LexisNexis. It does provide some information on a lawyer's background, including the Martindale-Hubbell peer review rating from their Law Directory. The amount of information varies by lawyer, but in this case, the lawyer my patron was looking for wasn't listed at all
- The Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers provides an attorney status report which, while it doesn't rate lawyers, does indicate when the lawyer was admitted to the bar and if they've had any complaints against them (my patron was shocked to find out her lawyer was admitted to the bar just eight months ago)
- A third resource the patron left with was the phone number of the Massachusetts Bar Association's Dial-A-Lawyer referral program, which assists private citizens in choosing legal council
Finding resources to research local doctors is slightly easier. This might be because the medical profession is more closely watched than the legal profession, or that people are more willing/able to travel for medical procedures than law suits.
One book I often turn to in our reference collection is America's Top Doctors, which lists doctors by region, specialty, hospital, and by name.
Another nice local resource is the Boston Consumers' Checkbook (which is also available for other cities). This magazine is similar to Consumer Reports, but instead of rating products, it rates services, including many medical services.
Part of the Mass.gov website reports on Health Care Quality and Cost Information. It includes lots of information for patients, but what I usually steer people towards are the "Volume by Surgeon and Hospital" reports - these aren't rankings exactly, but instead show how often a doctor or hospital performs a certain procedure. Other reports also list cost and mortality rates for doctors and hospitals.
Another state-level website is the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine's On-Line Physician Profile Site. Each profile includes general biographical information supplied by the doctor, and also has sections showing any malpractice payments made or any disciplinary and/or criminal actions taken against the doctor.
Additional web resources are:
- The American Medical Association's doctor finder doesn't provide rankings, but it does show contact and biographical information for both AMA members and non-members (it gives priority to members, it does list non-members if you click the right buttons)
- DrScore.com lets people score their own doctors and report on their experiences. Although the ratings are voluntary and anonymous, I did notice they indicate "Castle Connolly Top Doctors," which is the America's Top Doctor's resource I mentioned above. And in addition to the ratings, this website is also useful as doctor finder
- RateMDs.com seems more commercial than DrScore.com, but it also seems to have more ratings and comments. This also has nice feature search for finding local doctors
I list these because they are free and useful, and accessible for my patrons. I'm sure there are many more not-free websites out there too, as well as additional good print resources. I'd appreciate hearing suggestions for more resources in the comments below - thanks.