As always, we take health care reporting quite seriously. There is no perfect way to determine the city’s best physicians but we use a service that we feel is as good as possible. Here are some questions and answers about the methodology. Before you make any decision about physicians based on this list, please be aware of the following.

How were the Top 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 the live, than by local doctors who may not be as knowledgeable in specific specialty areas.

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 Best Doctors are re-evaluated along with the new nominees.
  • All of the voting is strictly confidential. In addition to peer evaulation, the Best Doctors staff conducts additional research on licensure, certification, disciplinary actions and clinical activity. All criteria must be met before a doctor is selected for the list.
  • Doctors are not notified of their inclusion on the list until after the survey process is completed. Doctors are not 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 30,000 doctors. Surveying was conducted from January 2007 through May 2007. This is the most recent, credible survey of doctors.

How about doctors who are no longer practicing locally because of Hurricane Katrina? Best Doctors has issued this statement: “Doctors displaced and/or relocated due to Hurricane Katrina have been updated to the best of our ability. Unless significant changes occur in a doctor’s practice, doctors who relocate retain their Best Doctors status when they change geographical locations. Any doctors we have been unable to locate remain in our database for further research but were removed from the list submitted due to their inaccessibility to your readers. All doctors we were able to locate were sent voting invitations for the Best Doctors 2007-2008 review.”

Are the surveys administered randomly? No. To get opinions with weight and professional credibility, Best Doctors tries to consult the very best. Researchers contact all current physicians on the list, including many department heads at major teaching hospitals and ask them to rate specialists outside their own facilities. According the Best Doctors, the medical community has been extremely supportive over the past 15 years it has administered the survey, providing a 54 percent response rate.

Whereas the bias? There is no perfect, bias-free way to conduct a ranking of any sort. Though Best Doctors has through the years refined its techniques to eliminate biases, any nomination process that relies of 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 have not had much per interaction will naturally get less recognition. The broadness and the depth of the voting pool help eliminate biases and cronyism that might be reflected in smaller surveys.

How credible is Best Doctors Inc.? 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 medical categories used in this selection determined? Best Doctors selected them.

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

Is this the definitive list?
Of course not, we have any doubt that there are many worthy doctors who were not included in the list. We are confident, however, that all who are listed are truly top doctors.