Two groups, ProPublica and Consumers’ Checkbook, have created resources that allow consumers to compare the relative risk associated with surgeons who perform several elective surgical procedures. These sites offer consumers an important, if imperfect, way of comparing the relative risk associated with various medical providers by reviewing, distilling, and publishing the rates of adverse patient outcomes compiled by Medicare between providers of the same surgical procedures. Collectively, these sites allow you to search by geographic location, surgeon, or facility, and, as reported by the Columbus Dispatch, the somewhat obvious result is that the same surgery may be substantially more or less dangerous depending on your choice of surgeon.
Accepting that these tools have their limitations, they are certainly a step in the right direction. The healthcare delivery system is almost singularly difficult for consumers to intelligently navigate. Neither hospitals, physician groups, nor doctors are forthcoming or transparent regarding such things as complication rates, infection rates, or medication error rates. Providing outcome based evaluation tools compliments other consumer based ratings systems, and gives consumers a good place to start when selecting a surgeon or hospital. Additionally, while hospitals and doctors will have sometimes valid criticisms for these and future sites, they should seek to collaborate and provide data to such endeavors so as to better understand how to improve safety and quality of care instead of guarding such information as closely held secrets. Decisions regarding medical care are some of the most important decisions people make in their lives. Consumers deserve to have access to as much information as possible to help them make these life or death decisions. ProPublica and Consumers’ Checkbook should be applauded for helping consumers gain more access to this important information.Click here to go the ProPublica website or here to go to the Consumers’ Checkbook website