How To Tell If You Have A Bad Surgeon Study:
Terrible Surgeons Are Accidentally Killing Patients Across The U.S. Surgeons are one of the most respected groups in America: their high degree of training allows them to save lives and help people with crucial procedures like knee and hip replacements. But a new study, published two weeks ago by ProPublica, a patients’ advocacy group, makes a damning claim: a relatively small number of surgeons are causing a disproportionate amount of complications, botched surgeries and occasionally deaths. In many cases, the oversight mechanisms in place are either non-existent or ineffectual at flagging down the worst offenders. ProPublica took a look at “2.3 million hip and knee replacements, spinal fusions, gallbladder removals, prostate resections and prostate removals done between 2009 and 2013 on patients in Medicare, the most comprehensive source of national hospital data publicly available.” Their findings?
Just 11% of surgeons in the country accounted for 25% of the complications from surgery, and that there were hundreds of surgeons whose complication rates were multiple times the US average. They then compiled these results into a “Surgeon Scorecard,” allowing you to search surgeons by their rates of complication. The goal is to empower patients to potentially avoid more dangerous surgeons and put pressure on health care providers to either fire or retrain bad surgeons.
ProPublica’s surgeon database. In many cases, the study charged, the oversight and transparency policies of health care providers just aren’t up to snuff, and may even be putting patients at risk. They highlight one surgeon, who had two patients die years apart in virtually identical circumstances because of surgical complications. He continues to practice at two hospitals. One of the main points of the study was to upend the traditional understanding of “complications” from surgery happening more or less at random; the new data reveals that some doctors are overwhelmingly more likely to have patients readmitted after surgery.
That can be dangerous; for medicare patients alone, over 60,000 patients were seriously harmed, and 3,405 died as a result of “low-risk” operations, a rate of about 700 per year. On the flip side, there are hundreds of doctors with zero complications on their records, and thousands more who have barely any. “[I[f complications are like lightning bolts, they tend to keep hitting the same surgeons, while missing others,” the study concluded.