Surgeon Scorecard — Good or bad for spine? 5 things to know

Written by Laura Dyrda | July 14, 2015 | Print  |

ProPublica released the "Surgeon Scorecard" database as part of the ongoing "Dollars to Doctors" feature for patients to gauge their providers' complication rates.

Here are five key notes on the program:

 

1. There are more than 17,000 surgeons featured in the database, which outlines complication rates for each provider.

 

2. The North American Spine Society leadership worked with ProPublica to identify appropriate elective procedures, define "complications" and offer ongoing risk-adjustment guidance for the scorecard project.

 

"It is our hope that the data released will help patients ask questions and make informed choices when surgery is required and help physicians and hospitals to identify and offer the highest quality care to patients," said Charles Mick, MD, former NASS president. He was also quoted in a USA Today article on the topic.

 

3. ProPublica compiles data derived from government records collected about Medicare patients when assigning complication rates to each provider. The Medicare complication rate information is also available online for any patient to see.

 

4. There are some surgeons who have higher-than-average complication rates, according to USA Today, based on comorbidities and performing more complex procedures. ProPublica's model does adjust complication rates based on patient age and the hospital quality where the procedure took place.

 

5. There are some physicians who are weary of this data transparency, fearing physicians will chose to treat low risk patients to boost their scores. That could create access issues for high-risk patients. Others are concerned the transparency could become a "witch hunt."

 

"While there are some very troubling examples of surgical complications, it is gratifying that the authors found the aggregate rates of harm were quite low nationwide," said Dr. Mick. "This data underscores the importance of healthcare professionals taking advantage of professional development and support offered by their hospitals, government agencies and specialty medical societies such as NASS."

 

More articles on spine surgery:
Do you have an independent spine practice? These ancillaries will keep you there
Anterior vs. posterior cervical fusion: Which is better? 6 key notes
The factors impacting spine patient satisfaction out of the spine surgeon's control

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