Tuesday, July 14, 2015

'Surgeon scorecard' measures docs by complications

Surgeons around the country are now scored against their peers in a new statistic developed by a non-profit news organization that goes beyond hospital-level data, providing a never-before-available tool for consumers and generating debate and some angst in the surgical community.

Nearly 17,000 doctors performing low-risk, common elective procedures such as gallbladder removal and hip replacements are measured in the new calculation, which the non-profit news outlet ProPublica calls an "Adjusted Complication Rate." The data, derived from government records collected about Medicare patients, is now available online for anyone to search.

"It's long overdue," said Charles Mick, a spine surgeon in Massachusetts who advised on the project. "Consider baseball, if you're a batter but never knew if you hit the pitch, how could know you know if you're getting better?"

Not all surgeons will be happy seeing their names online with a higher-than-average complication rate — based on problems like infections, clots or sepsis that call for post-operative care. But the model also factors various risks a surgeon encounters, and adjusts the complication rates based on patients' ages, the quality of the hospital where the surgery took place, and other factors.

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