Unfortunately I don't think there's a simple way for people without a medical background to evaluate the competence of their doctor. We get credited with cures unrelated to treatment and blamed for misfortunes that could not have been reasonably avoided. Patient satisfaction has far more to do with a doctor's interpersonal skills than their clinical acumen.
"Patient satisfaction has far more to do with a doctor's interpersonal skills than their clinical acumen."
My wife works for a surgeon's group and we've talked about how malpractice claims track with bedside manner, and not the skill of the clinician.
As a layman, I believe this and it scares me shitless. Especially when I think of the incompetent people in my profession, who people have no idea are incompetent, and apply that thought to medicine.
I have to say that patient satisfaction isn't what a doctor should look out for first and foremost. My mother is a midwife (i.e. not a doctor, but still in a medical profession) and through her I've seen and heard of the 'rankings' their patients give. The top 10 best midwife practices in the country are always the ones that give in to demands.
"But I want my baby to be born at home!" "k" "You're the best in the country11!!1!" is a common situation, despite the fact that in many cases the decision a good midwife should have made is to have the kid be born in the hospital. I regularly heard about patients who were outraged and angry when my mother firmly said that they couldn't have the kid be born at home because it would be dangerous, and I've heard of a few cases where these women go to the competitor with an overlapping service area, get what they want and then rate these competitors as being the better practice, despite the fact that they did something that is medically inexcusable. Incompetence has many forms, but low patient satisfaction isn't always it.