I keep hearing its defenders say, "Some data is better than no data at all." I disagree strongly with that. To me, bad data is worse than no data at all. People with much more statistical sophistication than I have pointed out the flaws in the scorecard.
Digression: Having written many posts about statistics, I can tell you that the mere mention of the word drives readers away about as fast as if you were to yell "Fire" in a crowded theater.
I want to focus on a different area. The scorecard has created a lot of chatter on Twitter, and just about everyone I know has blogged about it.
This reminds me of a couple of posts I wrote back in 2011. [Links here and here.] I pointed out that Twitter might not be as important as those of us who use it think it is.
While we were busy arguing about the merits of the scorecard on Twitter, I'm not so sure what the general public was doing.
For example, ProPublica says the Surgeon Scorecard has had over 1 million visitors since its launch. That sounds like a lot until you consider that the current population of the United States is estimated at 321 million. So 1 million people would be 0.3%. We do not know how many of those 1 million were unique visitors. It could be that many of them were doctors looking for their own statistics and bloggers looking for ideas.
That the public may not care was reinforced by a rather tepid response to the ProPublica AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit today.
By 1:00 PM EDT, which was two hours into the AMA, there were 80 comments, 31 of which were by ProPublica staff or the spine surgeon who had consulted on the scorecard's methods.
Just to give you some perspective, an AMA last year by a guy with two penises drew 17,134 comments.
Because the demographic is skewed toward younger people, perhaps Reddit may not have been the right venue. Although Reddit boasts 169 million unique visitors per month, the most recent figures show that 33% of the Reddit users are mostly men between 18 and 49 years old. Those under 18 are not counted but represent "a substantial percentage of Reddit users."
My two favorite questions asked of ProPublica were "How can I tell if my doctor is capable of making an error?" and "Do you fix the leg which is broken completely?" [Did the question refer to a leg that was completely broken, or did it mean should the leg be completely fixed?]
What have we learned here? It's hard to say.
If you want to read a measured critique of the scorecard, go to Dr. John Mandrola's piece on Medscape.