A heart surgeon and his surgical team work on the heart of a young child.
A heart surgeon and his surgical team work on the heart of a young child. - 
Listen To The Story

CORRECTION: This article on Consumer Reports rating heart surgeon groups incompletely describes factors considered in the ratings. They do take into account whether a surgical group treats older or sicker patients.


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: A lot of people check out Consumer Reports when they buy a dishwasher or TV. Now the magazine's rating doctors groups that perform heart surgery. Why the cardiac captivation?

Here's Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: The rankings are based on patients' survival rates, doctors' surgical techniques, and medications.

Doctor John Santa directs the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. He says there's a shortage of reliable doctor rankings.

JOHN SANTA: It is easier for consumers to find out information about cars and flat screens than it is to find out the very basic information about doctors and hospitals.

But some people say, take the rankings with a grain of salt. Austin Frakt is a health economist at Boston University. He says the doctors' grade depends partly on how their patients do. What about the doctor who takes on the oldest and sickest patients?

AUSTIN FRAKT: And he's so good and so kind he wants to take care of the patients that are hardest to treat. And so, his or her quality rating looks low when really it's very high quality care.

There are about a thousand cardiac doctor groups around the country. Consumer Reports only ranked about 200. It's hoping to expand its rankings.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.