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Surgeons’ Perceptions of Public Reporting of Hospital and Individual Surgeon Quality

Sherman, Karen L. MD, MS*; Gordon, Elisa J. PhD, MPH†,‡; Mahvi, David M. MD*; Chung, Jeanette PhD*; Bentrem, David J. MD, MS*,§; Holl, Jane L. MD, MPH*,†; Bilimoria, Karl Y. MD, MS*,†

doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000013
Original Articles

Background: Hospital-specific and surgeon-specific public reporting of performance measures is expanding largely due to calls for transparency from the public and oversight agencies. Surgeons continue to voice concerns regarding public reporting. Surgeons’ perceptions of hospital-level and individual-level public reporting have not been assessed. This study (1) evaluated surgeons’ perceptions of public reporting of surgical quality; and (2) identified specific barriers to surgeons’ acceptance of public reporting.

Methods: All surgeons (n=185) at 4 hospitals (university, children’s, 2 community hospitals), representing all surgical specialties, received a 41-item anonymous Internet-based survey. Twenty follow-up qualitative interviews were conducted to assess surgeons’ interpretation of findings.

Results: The survey response rate was 66% (n=122). Most surgeons supported public reporting of quality metrics at the hospital level (80%), but opposed individual reporting (53%, P<0.01). Fewer surgeons expected that individual (26%) or hospital (47%) public reporting would improve outcomes (P<0.01). Few indicated that their practice would change with hospital (11%) or individual (18%) public reporting (P=0.20). Primary concerns regarding public reporting at the hospital level included patients misinterpreting data, surgeons refusing high-risk patients, and outcome metric validity. Individual-surgeon level concerns included outcome metric validity, adequate sample sizes, and patients misinterpreting data. To make public reporting more acceptable, surgeons recommended patient education, simplified data presentation, continued risk-adjustment refinement, and internal review before public reporting.

Conclusions: Surgeons expressed concerns about public reporting of quality metrics, particularly reporting of individual surgeon performance. These concerns must be addressed to gain surgeons’ acceptance and to use public reporting to improve health care quality.

*Department of Surgery, Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center

Center for Healthcare Studies

Comprehensive Transplant Center, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

§Department of Surgery, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, Chicago, IL

Supported by in part by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality R21 HS021857 entitled “Engaging Patients and Hospitals to Expand Public Reporting in Surgery” (Principal Investigator: K.Y.B.).

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Karl Y. Bilimoria, MD, MS, Department of Surgery, Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, 676 N. St Clair St, Suite 650, Chicago, IL 60611. E-mail:

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.