Nonprofit Consumer Group Releases First‐Ever and Only Nationwide Ratings of Surgeons for Patient Outcomes, Based on Government Data Previously Kept from the Public
New Website Shows that Similar Patients Have Three Times the Risk of Death or other Bad Outcomes with Some Surgeons Compared to Other Surgeons.
WASHINGTON—Preventable medical errors of various kinds kill at least 200,000 Americans each year,
making this the third leading cause of death in the United States, six times as many deaths as from auto
accidents. One way to reduce such errors is for consumers to choose the best surgeons. For the first
time ever, consumers across the U.S. today have access to ratings of individual surgeons based on
outcomes—how often their patients die in hospital or within 90 days of hospital discharge, have serious
complications in hospital, or need to be readmitted to a hospital within 90 days of discharge.
The ratings were just released by the nonprofit Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services
and are available at no cost to consumers at www.surgeonratings.org, giving consumers a way to find
surgeons likely to have the best results.
These ratings are based on analysis of detailed federal government records, previously not made publicly available, that Consumers’ Checkbook was finally able to obtain from the government after
years of pushing and suing the government for release. These are records of more than four million
major surgeries done by more than 50,000 doctors. Checkbook undertook this project with a goal of
greatly reducing patients’ risks of bad outcomes from major surgeries.
The new website compares surgeons for 14 of the most important and high‐risk types of surgery,
including heart valve and bypass surgery, various types of vascular surgery, major bowel surgery, spine
surgery, pulmonary surgery, and total knee and hip replacement. The website identifies surgeons with
better‐than‐average performance. There is strong evidence in medical literature that surgeons with
better results use better techniques and make sure their patients get better overall care and follow‐up
in hospital and after release.
For the new website, surgeons’ results are adjusted to take into account how frail or sick their patients
were. Even after this adjustment, results vary dramatically from surgeon to surgeon. For example— Forheartvalve and bypass surgery, the patients of the best‐performing one‐tenth of surgeons had death rates of less than 3 percent in‐hospital or within 90 days of discharge, compared to death rates of more than 11 percent for patients of the worst‐performing one‐tenth of surgeons.
The average surgeon Checkbook evaluated had about a 6 percent death rate with these