ProPublica wants you to know more about your hospital’s success rates with various surgical procedures — even if some surgeons might want the info kept hidden.
The New York-based investigative journalism group has been hailed over its latest medical project — a searchable archive and analysis.
Drawing from federal sources, ProPublica took a close look at billing data that hospitals submitted to Medicare from 2009 to 2013. Surgeons with a high rate of bad outcomes are flagged.
“We analyzed 2.3 million procedures: hip and knee replacements, three types of spinal fusion, gallbladder removals, prostate removals and prostate resections,” said the reporter team in its mid-July posting.
- Search ProPublica’s Surgeon Scorecard — by hospital or doctor
At least a dozen of the 33 San Diego County hospitals and medical centers listed by the state of California are in the ProPublica listing:
- Alvarado Hospital Medical Center, San Diego
- Kaiser (Zion) Foundation Hospital, San Diego
- Palomar Health Downtown Campus, Escondido
- Scripps Green, La Jolla
- Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego
- Sharp Chula Vista
- Sharp Coronado Hospital
- Sharp Grossmont Hospital, La Mesa
- Sharp Memorial Hospital, Encinitas
- Sharp Memorial Hospital, San Diego
- Ti-City Medical Center in Oceanside
- UCSD Medical Center, San Diego
Nearly 17,000 surgeons were rated, and experts are mostly impressed — at least the ones whose reactions appear on the website.
“I think the methodology was rigorous and conservative,” said Dr. Thomas Lee, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. “I would be surprised if any experienced clinician challenged the basic finding, which is that there is real variation among surgeons.”
Lisa McGiffert of Consumers Union Safe Patient Project wrote: “Consumers have virtually no comparative information about the safety and quality outcomes of individual surgeons – until now. … Based on the findings in this report, consumers should demand more information for physician-focused data and analysis.”
Gretchen Dahlen, president of ConsumerHealthRatings.com, cheered “ProPublica’s gutsy move.”
“Professional medical societies and coding experts will need to be the ones to judge the validity of the risk adjustment methodology,” she said. “But for consumers, the new Scorecard is a welcomed contribution to help make our healthcare system safer, to spare anguish and save lives.”
A caution came from Dr. Peter Pronovost of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“The methodology needs improvement,” he wrote. “Like any new quality measure, this would need to be tested and validated before it should be presented as a valid tool intended to assist consumers in their medical decision-making.”
Pronovost said ProPublica’s model uses an indirect measure of complications that “fails to properly account for the variation in the reasons for a readmission.”