Top Story, Hospitals

Death and complication rates for many doctors have now been calculated and put in one spot – the Surgeon Scorecard

Many people opting for a surgical procedure look to make sure the hospital is considered good, but statics for each doctor within that hospital can vary greatly.

When there is time to prepare, it’s important for many people to carefully look for a surgeon they can really trust before going under the knife. And making that decision could be more important than we even think.

To make that process easier and more transparent, ProPublica has gathered information for a database covering 16,827 surgeons in the U.S. and focused on eight specific procedures. These include analysis of 2.3 million knee and hip replacement, gallbladder removal, lumbar spinal fusion, prostate resection, prostate removal and cervical spinal fusion. Their analysis looked just at those in Medicare, not the privately insured.

As ProPublica has pointed out, it’s much more important to look for a specific surgeon rather than just a good hospital because the numbers between individuals even in the same institution can vary greatly.

A surgeon with one of the nation’s highest complication rates for prostate removals in our analysis operates at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital, a national powerhouse known for its research on patient safety. He alone had more complications than all 10 of his colleagues combined — though they performed nine times as many of the same procedures.

The motivation for creating what they are calling the Surgeon Scorecard comes as a result of looking at five years of documentation indicating the results of poor care.

“About 63,000 Medicare patients suffered serious harm, and 3,405 died after going in for procedures widely seen as straightforward and low risk,” ProPublica reported. “Taxpayers paid hospitals $645 million for the readmissions alone.”

This effort toward more transparency about surgeons specifically needs to come from the outside, as ProPublica explained, because there still hasn’t been improvement on enforcing that information to be public from the government’s end, and leaving it up to hospitals individually might not yield the results patients really need to know.

CMS’ Physician Compare website, which is supposed to help patients choose providers, gives information on doctors’ specialties, location and gender — but nothing on how their patients fare.

Check out the Surgeon Scorecard here.

Photo: Flickr user James Mutter