Without such efforts, some experts say that any broader effort to improve the nation's medical care won't work.
Either way, patients clearly want to be able to compare doctors. A survey last month from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a nonprofit research group, found that 28% of Internet users reported looking for information on a specific doctor, up from 21% in 2002.
Many consumers, however, may find it hard to compare one report card with another. More than 10 agencies now rate doctors.
One emerging problem: a lack of uniformity in the rating systems. Some private healthcare rating companies' websites, such as HealthGrades (www.healthgrades.com) and Subimo (www.subimo.com), may be easier to use, although they offer information only on hospitals, not specific doctors.
"The reasons doctors treat or don't treat a particular patient are very complex, and most don't have anything to do with a report card," said Craig Narins, a cardiologist at the University of Rochester and lead researcher on the January survey on New York doctors.
"It's just hard to believe this isn't in the back of their mind," he said. "Doctors are very competitive people at heart, and they don't like to lose."