in Science

How good are doctors?

Atul Gawande’s The Bell Curve in last week’s New Yorker

It used to be assumed that differences among hospitals or doctors in a particular specialty were generally insignificant. If you plotted a graph showing the results of all the centers treating cystic fibrosis—or any other disease for that matter—people expected that the curve would look something like a shark fin, with most places clustered around the very best outcomes. But the evidence has begun to indicate otherwise. What you tend to find is a bell curve: a handful of teams with disturbingly poor outcomes for their patients, a handful with remarkably good results, and a great, undistinguished middle.

It’s an excellent look at how honestly hospitals are dealing with their patients. Also of note is Tom Peter’s reaction.