A new analysis by ProPublica of medical data from Medicare reveals the importance of choosing the right surgeon for important medical procedures. In the case of Island Hospital, one surgeon had lower complication rates than other doctors for knee and hip replacements.
Guided by experts, ProPublica calculated death and complication rates for surgeons performing one of eight elective procedures in Medicare, carefully adjusting for differences in patient health, age and hospital quality. Use this database to know more about a surgeon before your operation.
ProPublica has created an online app where you can take a close look at how surgeons in Skagit County and across the country fared when examining complications following surgery.
When it comes to knee replacements, Dr. Richard Williamson was the only surgeon with low complications as reported by ProPublica. Looking at hip replacements, Dr. Williamson and Dr Curtis Rodin had fewer complications than two other surgeons performing the same procedure.
To be fair to surgeons, ProPublica’s analysis accounted for factors such as patients’ health and age. They focused only on elective cases because they typically involve healthier patients with the best odds of a smooth recovery.
ProPublica’s published report said overall complication rates were relatively low, ranging from 2 percent to 4 percent, depending on the type of surgery. But experts who reviewed ProPublica’s results say they strongly suggest that the typical surgeon’s rate can and should be significantly lower.
ProPublica made public the complication rates of nearly 17,000 surgeons nationwide. Patients will be able to weigh surgeons’ past performance as they make what can be a life-and-death decision. Doctors themselves can see where they stand relative to their peers.
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. ProPublica calculated complication rates for surgeons, carefully accounting for differences in patient health, age and hospital quality. These rates are 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.