Mismeasuring Medicine. “The Tyranny of Metrics,” with Jerry Z. Muller, PhD

 

Name: Jerry Z. Muller, PhD

Location: Catholic University of America. Washington, DC

Specialty: Professor of History.

Most of you know the quote, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” It’s often attributed, incorrectly, to the famous nineteenth century physicist, Lord Kelvin. Wherever it came from, it’s sounds about right. Same goes for this familiar quote from a popular business book author, “What gets measured gets done.”

Well, in today’s episode were going to talk about what’s getting measured and what’s actually getting done. What’s getting measured are thousands of performance and quality indicators. What’s getting done is docking our medical system billions of dollars every year in costs and lost productivity. Nothing new to all of you out there. But what if this “metric fixation,” is doing more than just wasting time and money? Used correctly, metrics and big data analysis offer incredible promise for research, visibility and improvement. Used incorrectly, they can steer us off course, devalue professional judgment, manipulate, encourage fraud, and possibly cause real harm to physicians, hospitals and patients.

As you know, every so often we like to venture outside the medical tent for unique perspectives. That’s certainly true of today’s guest, historian Jerry Muller. Author of many books and a regular contributor to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Affairs. His recent book, “The Tyranny of Metrics,” arose from his initial frustrations with metric fixation in higher education. As he dug deeper, he soon realized these fixations weren’t’ limited to universities, and they weren’t new. They were already prevalent in business, law enforcement, the military, philanthropy, and of course medicine. What he found was a growing obsession with rankings, scores and a belief that all aspects of human performance and judgment can ultimately be deconstructed, demystified and quantified.

This was a fascinating discussion with a rare thinker and scholar, we hope you’ll enjoy. With that said let’s get started.

 

Links and Resources:

Jerry Muller: https://history.catholic.edu/faculty-and-research/faculty-profiles/muller-jerry/index.html

“The Tyranny of Metrics:” https://www.amazon.com/Tyranny-Metrics-Jerry-Z-Muller/dp/0691174954

Great Courses: https://www.thegreatcourses.com/professors/jerry-z-muller/

Follow Jerry: https://twitter.com/jerryzmuller

Foreign Affairs: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/authors/jerry-z-muller

Costly physician performance metrics have serious flaws, study finds: https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/costly-physician-performance-metrics-have-serious-flaws-study-finds

Time Out — Charting a Path for Improving Performance Measurement: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1802595

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