What accounts for differences in doctors' prescriptions?

by jerry on October 07, 2011
Here's an interesting article about a patient who got three different recommended treatments from three different doctors. Two of the three doctors recommended destroying the thyroid gland, condemning the patient to a lifelong regimen of iodine pills. The third doctor's successful recommendation treated the patient's condition without the lifelong consequences.

What accounts for the differences in the doctors' prescribed treatments? Perhaps more importantly, what pieces of data could be used to predict these differences? After all, I would clearly prefer the third doctor myself. But how could I find such a doctor without having the visit all three? Does anyone know? Even if we were to simplify the problem to be able to see which doctors are more likely to prescribe medication versus lifestyle changes (which would be very useful to prospective patients), what data could consumers look at to simplify their search? If you have any ideas, let us know.