(USA Today) -- Most Influential Doctors, created for USA TODAY by Santa Fe medical information firm Qforma, lists about 6,000 specialists in the treatment of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma from more than 300 U.S. metro areas.
Unlike standard best-doctor lists compiled by opinion-based surveys, the Qforma analysis represents a national effort to track subtle differences in doctors' practice patterns that reveal, on a local level, which doctors most influence their peers. The project's goal is to offer consumers an innovative resource that they may factor into the complex decision of how to choose a doctor.
The company's approach exploits a wealth of information that's commercially available to anyone able to pay for it. Unbeknownst to most patients and many physicians, virtually every detail of a doctor's professional activities — from procedures to referrals to prescribing records — are available to health plans, marketers, medical information firms and drug companies.
The variables used to select doctors include books and articles they've have published, the studies they've carried out, academic achievements, referral patterns, diagnoses, procedures, their prescribing activity, their hospital affiliations, and the like. Some information is publicly available, and some comes from confidential diagnosis, procedure and prescription data gathered by Medicare and other payors.