.The other day I received a letter from the “International Association of Cardiologists”. They informed me that I had been named one of “The Leading Physicians of the World”. My initial reaction to this was “Great! Somebody has finally recognized my mad doctoring skills.”
However, being the skeptical cardiologist I am naturally suspicious of any organization with which I am totally unfamiliar, bestowing honors upon me. I decided to look further into this organization since it is likely that patients may be making decisions on what doctors to see based on these types of “honors.”
How Do You Pick a Cardiologist?
It is extremely hard for the average patient to decide which cardiologist they should see. Reputation does not always correlate with competence. A good bedside manner doesn’t mean a doctor knows what is he doing. There is no way to view doctors’ quality of care statistics. Cardiologists who order lots of tests might seem to be on top of things but are the tests really indicated? Bad doctors can come from really good training programs and great doctors can come from weak training programs.
A useful starting point is to look for a cardiologist board-certified in cardiology and with FACC after their name. The American College of Cardiology (ACC) is our main organization and becoming a fellow in the college (FACC) means you have successfully completed a credentialed cardiology training program.
What does an honor like “Leading Physician of the World” mean?
I called the telephone number in the letter and began a fascinating conversation. After a few superficial questions about what kind of practice I was in, how long I had been in practice, and what my specialties were, the woman congratulated me on being a “very successful physician” and told me I had been honored as one of “The Leading Physicians of The World” and would accrue all the benefits of this status.
Benefits including publication in the “Leading Health Care Workers of the world” book and a listing in the “find a top doc” registry.
What followed was a classic high pressure marketing spiel. The best level, it seemed, for me was the “Diamond Level.” For only $969 up front, another $199 when my biography was published, and a monthly fee of $34.95, I would be featured in the prestigious diamond section of the book. The other benefits of the diamond section were a free gift and a companion airline ticket voucher worth up to $550. Cardiologists, she told me, usually went with this level because the airline ticket voucher was “cost-effective “.
When I said “I am not interested in paying any money” she told me that the Platinum level at $769 up front would then be a better fit. This continued through multiple precious metal levels and declining fees with associated smaller page listings until it became apparent that there was no level that did not require the monthly $34.95 fee and I ended the conversation.
After this experience it has become clear to me that this organization exists entirely to make money and the honors it bestows and its publications are meaningless. Doctors recognized by this organization are not necessarily special, leading, or at the top of their profession, they just elected to pay for a meaningless honor (or they mistakenly considered it an honor) perhaps in the hopes that it would generate more business.
Personally, I would be embarrassed to have such a listing and as a patient I would shy away from doctors who are paying for it.
The website for The Leading Physicians of the World is very slick and professional looking and states that the purpose of the organization is
“The Leading Physicians of the World was founded on the idea that personal achievement is deserving of recognition and reward. Through a variety of benefits offered LPW honors our selected physicians through massive multi media exposure in an effort to place consumers in the hands of the right doctor.”
and that physicians are
“Selected for their experience, forward thinking, and highest quality of care, The Leading Physicians of the World, are the most distinguished and desired medical professionals from every specialty.aaa (sic)”
In reality, this organization is a sham, there is no attempt to assess the “forward thinking” or “quality of care” of the physicians listed, the only thing that matters is the dollars the doctors paid.
The other benefit that I was offered if I paid up was a listing in “findatopdoc.com”. This website performs a search for doctors by specialty and by location and claims that you can make an instant appointment with the top docs identified in the search. Three cardiologists in the St. Louis area came up. When I clicked to make an appointment, the button was inactive.
Finding a good cardiologist is a very difficult process. I’ll write more on this in future posts. It is unfortunate that companies like “The International Association of Cardiologists”, “The International Association of Health Care Professionals” (and all of its International Associations of ____) and “findatopdoc.com” are preying on patients who are looking for guidance in the process.