To the Editor.
—Dr Ramsey and his colleagues1 are to be congratulated on an elegant study of peer ratings of physicians' humanistic qualities and communications skills, and Dr Petersdorf2 nicely outlines potential problems that could arise if we try systematically to implement a professional associates rating questionnaire. But before implementing such methods, we need to establish that they can answer the relevant questions. The questionnaires measured very well what physicians thought about other physicians, and compared those findings with what nurses thought about those physicians. But for communications and humanistic skills, the important issue is what patients think about their physicians.Certainly, it is far easier to rely on peer assessment than patient assessment. This may be appropriate for measuring some characteristics of how physicians interact with their patients. In terms of technical abilities, physicians may be able to judge their peers quite well. But their ability is
Howell JD. Rating Physician Performance: Peers or Patients?. JAMA. 1993;270(12):1425. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510120047024