Choosing the best surgeon can reduce your chances of death, complications, or other bad outcomes. This website, based on analyses of data on more than five million surgeries done in hospital by more than 50,000 surgeons, shows you which surgeons' patients Checkbook found had the lowest (or highest) rates of deaths, prolonged lengths of stay (indicating likely complications), or need to be readmitted to hospital, after our risk-adjustments for patient characteristics.
The data and analysis behind this website will continue to be refined over time. We want the information we provide to be as helpful as we can make it to consumers and to doctors. If you have comments or suggestions, please contact us here. Users should also look for other information on surgeons and be aware that any given surgeon might have better or worse results on different samples of similar patients. What we report here on surgeon outcomes is based on our analysis of data from Medicare claims for in-hospital procedures we were able to get for a period from 2010 through 2014 (and only includes surgeons for whom we were able to get what we considered enough such Medicare claims). Results might be different for different time periods and other data sources.
- There are big differences among surgeons. For example, for some types of surgeries, Checkbook has reported risk-adjusted death rates more than three times as high for the patients of some surgeons compared to the patients of other surgeons—even after our analysts made risk-adjustments intended to take into account differences in the age, health, and other characteristics of the patients.
- Checkbook.org is funded by consumers, for consumers with a mission of giving consumers information to help them make good decisions in choosing service providers. Unlike most other websites, our nonprofit organization, Consumers' Checkbook (also known as Center for the Study of Services), takes no advertising or similar payments from businesses or professionals we evaluate. For more than 20 years, we have evaluated hospital performance using these types of data, and taking advantage of improved data availability in recent years, we began evaluating physician performance using these types of data in 2015.
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This website is intended to help you find excellent candidates to perform surgery for you or a loved one for each of 12 types of major surgery.
This is the first-ever website to report nationwide, on such a range of procedures, estimates of specific surgeons' results in terms of patients' deaths, complications (which we identify based on prolonged lengths of hospital stays), or need to be readmitted to a hospital. Our analysts have made adjustments intended to take into account that some surgeons treat more difficult cases than others in terms of their patients' age and/or medical conditions.
There are big differences among surgeons in the results we report. For example–
- For heart valve 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.
- Similarly, for major small and large bowel surgery, death rates ranged from less than 6 percent for the best-performing one-tenth of surgeons to more than 18 percent for the worst-performing one-tenth.
- And for total hip and knee replacement, where deaths are rare, the best-performing one-tenth of surgeons had overall bad-outcome rates (prolonged lengths of stay, readmissions, or deaths) of less than 8 percent, while the worst-performing one-tenth had overall bad-outcome rates of more than 21 percent.
To create this website comparing performance of surgeons throughout the U.S., Consumers' CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services (Checkbook.org) has used government data on millions of cases over a five-year period. The data analyzed were claims records of in-hospital surgeries for patients age 65 or older in the traditional Medicare program who had these surgeries during a five-year period (2010-14). We have been performing such comparisons of hospitals for many years, but the federal government would not release data identifying individual doctors. We had been suing the government and pushing for policy changes for more than a decade, but to no avail. Finally, thanks to some forward-thinking people in the government, the needed data were made available. We hope more and more data will become available, quality measurement will continue to improve, and physicians and consumers will continue to work for the best possible outcomes. We are working on new analyses and expect to report updated results in 2019.
You will find some results of our analyses here, along with other types of information we have pulled together on each listed surgeon–with more to come as this work evolves and improves.
To help you choose the best surgeon, our website tells you which doctors had relatively few deaths and other bad outcomes (based on our researchers' analysis of the data we had, including adjustments for the characteristics of the surgeons' patients) for 12 board categories of surgery, which doctors were most often recommended by other doctors, which hospitals used by the doctors had the best surgical outcomes, and other key facts, such as board certification, education, and training. We report on 12 broad categories of types of surgery. On our search page, select the type you are interested in and see the surgeons who look good according to our measures. We plan to continually adjust the list of types of surgery as different data become available and medical and surgical practice changes. We have not, for example, reported on hernia repair here although we did in a previous version of this website because more and more hernia repairs are done on an out-patient basis and the data on such out-patient procedures still do not meet our standards of quality. For all of the procedure groups we examined, we found that very large differences exist among individual surgeons. For example, for heart valve and heart bypass surgery, the patients of the one-tenth of surgeons for whom we are reporting the lowest risk-adjusted death rates had rates of less than 2 percent in-hospital or within 90 days of discharge, compared to risk-adjusted death rates of more than 13 percent for patients of the one-tenth of surgeons with the highest risk-adjusted death rates according to our analysis. Before undergoing surgery, consider the evidence that it is necessary, that no better options exist, and that the benefits are worth it. To do this, talk with your primary care doctor, a surgeon who might perform the surgery, and one or more independent surgeons for second opinions. Any good surgeon will encourage you to get independent second opinions. Our ratings will help you find good surgeons to consult. There is much doctors and patients can do to improve outcomes. We want to help everyone do their part. You can find an enormous amount of medical information online. We list here several useful sites. This section is a detailed discussion of the measures we report on deaths and other bad outcomes and how to interpret them.