Surgeon Scorecard for Northeast Georgia Medical Center
Rankings for rate of complications for elective procedures for Medicare patients between 2009 and 2013
Knee replacement: 25 of 85 hospitals in Georgia, with no surgeon with a high rate of complications
Hip replacement: 29 of 63, with no surgeon with a high rate of complications
Cervical (neck) spinal fusion: 33 of 33, with high complication rate for the single doctor performing this surgery
Lumbar spinal fusion, posterior technique: 21 of 40, no surgeon with high rate of complications
Lumbar spinal fusion, anterior technique: 7 of 39, one surgeon with a high rate of complications
Gallbladder removal, laparoscopic: 6 of 48, no surgeon with a high rate of complications
Prostate removal: 17 of 20, no surgeon with a high rate of complications
To review the ratings for individual surgeons at NGMC and other hospitals across the state, visit projects.propublica.org/surgeons.
Infections, blood clots and misaligned orthopedic devices are among the complications that can arise from common elective procedures, such as hip and knee replacements and gallbladder and prostate removal.
These complications can be costly and deadly.
A new online database unveiled this week aims to educate patients about the performance of surgeons at hospitals across the nation, including at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, where just two surgeons have high rates of complications for the types of procedures reviewed.
Developed by ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit investigative journalism group based in New York City, the “Surgeon Scorecard” tallies adjusted complication rates among eight surgeries for 16,827 surgeons at 3,575 hospitals between 2009 and 2013.
The numbers are based on Medicare data, and do not include private insurance or Medicaid patients.
According to the scorecard, one surgeon at NGMC has high rates of complications in the area of cervical spinal fusions. For anterior technique lumbar spinal fusions, one surgeon has high rates of complications and another has low rates of complications.
All other surgeons among all other procedures rank within the medium level of complication rates.
“We applaud any effort that will result in improved patient care,” said Melissa Tymchuk, spokeswoman for the Northeast Georgia Health System. “As a system, our staff and physicians are continually looking at outcomes data and for opportunities to improve. This new data source from ProPublica is one more tool patients have to review data on physicians and hospitals, in addition to other independent health care ratings agencies.”
Nationwide, these eight surgeries — knee replacement, hip replacement, cervical (neck) spinal fusion, posterior technique lumbar spinal fusion, anterior technique lumbar spinal fusion, laparoscopic gallbladder removal, prostate removal and prostate resection — resulted in 63,173 patient readmissions and 3,405 deaths after complications arose during the years included in the study.
Medicare paid more than $645 million for readmissions within 30 days of surgery due to complications.
The scorecard accounts for a number of variables, such as patient health, age and hospital quality.
The complication rates also exclude high-risk cases, as well as patients admitted via emergency rooms or transferred from another hospital.
ProPublica worked with dozens of physicians and specialists in these surgery areas to review and score the data.
A surgeon’s ratings include all hospitals where they operate, and the minimum threshold for inclusion in the study is 20 surgeries in a single category.
NGHS has two departments dedicated to tracking patient care statistics, including rates of complication, mortality rates, infection, readmission rates, patient satisfaction and best practices, among many others, according to Tymchuk.
“We collect and report this data among all levels of our organization, as well as to many national agencies such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Hospital Quality Alliance,” Tymchuk said. “Tracking and reporting these statistics allows us to continually improve patient care as well as compare ourselves to other hospitals and health systems across the country as we strive to be among the best programs in the nation.”