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When it comes to surgeons, technical skills matter

When choosing who to hire to remodel a basement or fix a car, consumers are able to read reviews and testimonials. Based on this information, an individual is likely to choose the service provider whose reviews are more favorable. While these types of consumer rating systems are readily available for many industries, the medical field has yet to follow suit.

In fact when deciding on where to have a medical procedure performed and by whom, patients often have no information or resources about the hospital or surgeon. Despite the high costs associated with health care and the literal life and death situations with which surgeons deal, the skills of many remain largely unmeasured and unknown.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan aimed to evaluate and rate the skills of 20 surgeons. For the study, a group of 20 surgeons videotaped themselves performing gastric bypass surgeries on patients. A group of surgical evaluators then critiqued and ranked the surgeons based on their overall performance and technique.

After the rankings were complete, the group then examined the medical records of 10,343 patients of these same surgeons who had undergone the same procedure. The results showed that the patients of those surgeons deemed to be the best had the lowest rates of complications. Additionally, surgeons with the most advanced technical skills were also able to perform the complicated surgery in less time and with less risk to patients.

It seems unlikely that any reliable surgeon rating or ranking system will grow out of this study. It does, however, seem likely that consumers will continue to demand more information about and transparency related to health care providers and their skills and reputations. This is especially the case when it comes to surgeons where the stakes are too high if a surgical error occurs.

Source: Forbes, “How Good Are The Best Surgeons? A New Study Shows That Your Surgeon’s Skill Really Matters,” Steven Salzberg, Oct. 21, 2013


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