There is nothing that we do that we take as seriously as presenting our readers with a list of recommended doctors.

This is one area where we never want to be wrong. We know there’s no perfect way to determine the city’s best physicians, but we use a service that we feel is as good as possible. Before you make any decision about physicians based on this list, please be aware of the following:

How were the Best Doctors selected? We used the services of Best Doctors Inc. The Boston-based company is the preeminent organization at gathering professional peer ratings. Through the years the company has built a database of professionals who are highly regarded by their peers. Those professionals are in turn interviewed for their recommendations.

What question is asked of the doctors who are interviewed? Best Doctors contacts each doctor on the previous list and asks the same question: “If you or a loved one needed a doctor in your specialty, and you couldn’t treat them yourself, to whom would you refer them?”

Do doctors get a chance to respond to other names recommended? Every doctor has the opportunity both to comment (confidentially) on the other doctors included in his or her specialty, and related specialties, and to make additional nominations. As new names are added to the pool, each undergoes the same peer-evaluation process. The company claims to have developed special software to correct for some methodological biases: for example, to detect and correct for suspect voting patterns and to weigh votes according to the ratings of the doctors who are doing the recommending.

What happens to the data? There is a continual refinement of both the voting pool and the nominee pool. Each time a poll is conducted, the list is sifted, refined and improved for better representation and more solid consensuses.

How does this differ from local surveys? One major difference: Doctors are evaluated by their peers nationwide, not just by doctors in their community. In many areas doctors may be better known and evaluated by those within their specialty groups, regardless of where they live, than by local doctors who may not be as knowledgeable in specific specialty areas.

Why do some hospitals seem to have such a preponderance of doctors listed? Because they have so many doctors.

As hospitals expand and open more facilities, their number of doctors increases. Through the years the dominant hospitals have shifted and they may shift again in the future.

Do doctors have to pay to be on the list? No! We would never use the list if that were the case. Here is the company’s own statement on that issue: “Best Doctors never takes compensation of any kind from doctors or hospitals in return for listing doctors in its database, nor does Best Doctors pay doctors to participate in its survey process.”

What are some of the rules that the company uses?

• Doctors are allowed to vote on others in their hospital and medical practices. The feeling is that those doctors know their peers best – that’s where the survey gets some of its most outspoken evaluations, good and bad.

• Doctors are never “automatically” re-included. In each biennial poll, current and previous Best Doctors are re-evaluated along with the new nominees.

• All of the voting is strictly confidential.

• Once a consensus of peer support is achieved, additional research is conducted on credentials, disciplinary actions and clinical activity

• Doctors aren’t notified of their inclusion on the list until after the survey process is completed. Doctors aren’t required to pay a fee or make a purchase to be included.

How many doctors were surveyed? As part of its nationwide survey, the company interviewed over 45,000 doctors.

Research was conducted for this list June through October 2010. This is the most recent, credible survey of doctors.

Biennial research will begin in June 2012 for the ‘12-’13 list.

Are the surveys administered randomly? No. To get opinions with weight and professional credibility, Best Doctors consults the very best. Researchers contact all current physicians on the list, which includes many department heads at major teaching hospitals, and asks them to rate specialists outside their own facilities. According to Best Doctors: the medical community has been extremely supportive over the past 20-plus years it has administered the survey, providing a 54 percent response rate. Other polls of this sort, such as Gallup and Roper, routinely receive less than a 10 percent response rate.

Where’s the bias? There is no perfect, bias-free way to conduct a ranking of any sort. Though Best Doctors has refined its techniques to eliminate biases through the years, any nomination process that relies on peer evaluations will naturally favor more senior doctors who have had time to develop a reputation. Those who are new in their profession or those who haven’t had much peer interaction will naturally get less recognition. The breadth and the depth of the voting pool help to eliminate biases and cronyism that might be reflected in smaller surveys. In addition to the peer evaluation, Best Doctors conducts research on each physician’s credentials, disciplinary actions and clinical activity to determine selections.

How were the medical categories used in this selection determined? Best Doctors selected them based on AMA (American Medical Association) and ABMS (American Board of Medical Specialties) recognized specialties.

There are also doctors selected for the list who were trained outside the United States that are recognized by their peers and meet Best Doctors qualification criteria.

How credible is Best Doctors? We know of no better company for providing this type of information. Best Doctors’ roots begin with the Woodward/White Company of Aiken, S.C. That company was founded by a person who was diagnosed with a terminal illness, who discovered the frustrations of facing serious illness but not having any source as a reference for medical help. Woodward/White was once the subject of a favorable report on “60 Minutes.” Though Best Doctors is now located in Boston, the research unit is still in Aiken.


 


How were the five doctors who are profiled in this section selected? The editorial staff of New Orleans Magazine selected them. We tried to choose people who represented a variety of specialties.

Is this the definitive list? Of course not. We have no doubt that there are many worthy doctors who weren’t included in the list. We are confident, however, that all who are listed are truly among the best doctors.

 

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