Editor's Choice

Individual performance data: revelation and revolution

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7490.0-g (Published 03 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:0-g
  1. Kamran Abbasi, acting editor (kabbasi{at}bmj.com)

    What information about your performance are you prepared to reveal? In the spirit of freedom of information I present my own performance data. Authors and voyeurs will be interested. In 2005 my average decision time for reading a submitted paper (from the moment it lands in my electronic queue to the moment I pass judgment) is 13.8 days. Of course, that doesn't mean I spend two weeks reading a research paper, I know I usually take anything between one and 30 minutes to reach a decision, depending on its complexity (apologies to authors who think we spend hours poring over their life's work). Many of my colleagues hold on to papers for less than two days—remember editors don't only read research papers. Giselle Jones and Christopher Martyn take half a day, and Domnhall MacAuley is greased lightning: electronic timing calculates, surely miscalculates, 0.0 days.

    You might take this to mean that my performance is unacceptable and any self respecting author should add a note to their covering letter saying that they don't want their papers seen by me. Fair enough, but I plead mitigation. There are other factors at play, such as I'm currently doing two jobs and my case mix has a disproportionately high number of complex papers. I might, of course, be just plain inefficient—but loath to accept it. In any case, do authors really want to be rejected within 5 minutes of submission or would they be consoled that their paper tarried in the BMJ system for at least a few days?

    The next piece of information, though, is a landmark (p 506). We present individual performance data for all the cardiac surgeons in the North West region of England, data that have been made publicly available for the first time—prompted by a request from the Guardian newspaper, which was to publish a report of all cardiac surgeons in its issue of 4 March. Ben Bridgewater and his colleagues decided that it would be more responsible of them to present their individual performance data in a medical journal so that case mix could be given fuller consideration. The complexity of the data would not then be undersold by the simplicity of the presentation. The people of Liverpool, Manchester, and Blackpool can now scan the list of surgeons published in this issue and exercise patient choice. Cardiac surgeons of the North West of England maintain, however, that they all fall within the recommended national range for performance and any differences may be due to other factors that they could not fully consider in their analysis. In accompanying editorials Tom Treasure explains why this is the dawn of the age of information sharing and Barbara Meredith outlines the possibilities for patients and the responsibilities of healthcare organisations (pp 489, 490). Welcome to a new world. Be brave.

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