Choosing a surgeon can be a daunting task, and ProPublica, a not-for-profit news organization based in New York that produces investigative journalism in the public interest, researched thousands of doctors and how well they performed surgeries over a four-year period. Focusing on surgeons and not hospitals, ProPublica examined 16,827 doctors across the country focusing on eight surgical procedures performed thousands of times a day, scheduled in advance and generally performed on patients in stable health. Patients who were brought in through the emergency room or from facilities like nursing homes were excluded.
Guided by top researchers and doctors, ProPublica used Medicare data from 2009-2013 to identify cases where a patient died in the hospital or had to be readmitted within 30 days for a problem related to one of these elective procedures. The organization then calculated complication rates for surgeons, trying to account for differences in patient health, age and hospital quality. ProPublica reports that these rates were calculated using data from Medicare records, which do not include patients with private insurance or in another program like Medicaid. A surgeon’s rate spans all hospitals at which he or she operates and is not unique to a given hospital. The analysis is based on billing data hospitals submitted to Medicare from 2009-2013.
ProPublica analyzed 2.3 million procedures: hip and knee replacements, three types of spinal fusion, gallbladder removals, prostate removals and prostate resections. To examine the database that ProPublica put together, click here.
The database is interesting in that it is divided by city, surgeon and particular surgeries. Take a look. It’s obvious that selecting a surgeon is important. To learn more about how to do that, read this patient safety report published by ProPublica.