New online tool focuses on complication rates
Recently, ProPublica released its Surgeon Scorecard, which used five years of Medicare data to assess complication rates of common elective procedures. These lower risk procedures include knee and hip replacements, spinal fusions and gallbladder removals, among others. Using an algorithm, the group took into account risk factors such as a patient’s age and health conditions before coming up with what they call the ‘adjusted complication rate.’
Making information on complication rates publicly available is a big win for all of us who are working toward further transparency in health care, while underscoring the important roles patients have to play in finding and seeking out quality care. Allowing patients to search to see how often a surgeon’s Medicare patients had complications now puts some of the power into their hands.
At the same time, for providers and health care organizations, having this information can help inform overall quality improvement efforts. It pushes health care organizations to work harder to reduce complication rates.
“This type of analysis utilizing Medicare data looks at certain aspects of quality and can add to a growing body of information that patients might find helpful in their health care decisions,” says Michael Myint, MD, MBA, Vice President of Quality and Safety at Swedish Medical Center, an Alliance member organization. “We value transparency and use this and other metrics to continuously improve and deliver on our commitment to demonstrate the highest quality care for all the patients we serve.”
Like many transparency tools, there are limits to how the Surgeon Scorecard can be used. The rate of complications is only one data point patients should consider when selecting a surgeon for a procedure. As the ProPublica investigators discuss in their methodological white paper, research has pointed to other factors that might contribute to the variation they found in patients’ complication rates. These findings point to better outcomes when the surgeon is highly skilled, adheres to best practices and has conducted the surgery many times before.
This fall, the Alliance will be rolling out additional patient safety and quality of care measures for Washington hospitals – including hospital-acquired infection rates – in the updated Community Checkup. Each of these tools is an important component of improving the overall quality and value of health care in the United States, and the quality of life of patients.
Published: July 27, 2015