Surgeon Ratings: Helpful or Harmful


If you work as closely with surgeons as we do, chances are you’re well aware of new tools designed to rate surgeon performance. and ProPublica’s Surgeon Scorecard are now providing surgeons' ratings, accessible to anyone, in an effort to help patients make informed decisions and improve results through transparency.

Both sites base ratings on outcomes such as complication rates, hospital readmissions, and deaths, but vary in their method of reporting these statistics. The sites draw data from Medicare claims and adjust for patient factors such as age, health status, and the quality of the hospital where the surgery took place.

We checked it out and found the variation in performance shocking. Surgeons operating in the same environment, under almost identical conditions can stack up very differently than their peers. Now that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are reducing payments to hospitals with high readmission rates these surgeons are likely in hot water.

But are these ratings telling the whole story? Simply put, no, and it’s generating some debate among the surgical community. A lot goes into a procedure that cannot be judged except on a case-by-case basis. Not all complications that arise from a surgery are cause for readmission, but how does that get factored in?

What do you think about these new tools? Is this a step in the right direction or are surgeons being unfairly penalized for factors beyond their control? Please share your thoughts.

Kevin O'HaraAnalyticsComment