qWK Reads #013

Transparency, but not like this!

Last week, ProPublica released the Surgeon Scorecard, which evaluates individual surgeons on readmission and mortality rates based on selected Medicare data. The general idea is that patients should be able to use this Scorecard to choose their surgeons based on track record. Few people disagree with this sentiment.

However, the medical community is sees the Scorecard as a missed opportunity to actually improve health care because the analysis is sketchy and the conclusions are hasty. ProPublica used administrative Medicare data (which has been shown to be unreliable) as a proxy for real outcomes, and their sample sizes of procedures for each surgeon are small, leading to massive confidence intervals. Apart from the analysis, many also doubt ProPublica’s intentions after watching their super creepy Surgeon Scorecard teaser trailer (Babies? I thought we were talking about prostate removals…).

Even though the execution of this work was bad, the silver lining is that doctors and patients alike have shown that they want to talk about transparency. Doctors want medicine to be more meritocratic, and patients want to know their physicians’ track records. Let’s hope the right data and analyses follow soon!

Related: An example of when transparent physician records helped reduce unnecessary C-sections (from a past issue of qWK Reads)

Other interesting reads


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