“The Medical groups that perform heart bypass surgery are now being rated alongside cars and toaster ovens in Consumer Reports,” quipped the New York Times article. Personally, a toaster oven seems preferable to cardiothoracic surgery, but anyone who handles group practice marketing will want to watch this idea unfold. It’s seems to be inspiring lively discussion in professional and public circles.
The New England Journal of Medicine published its comments, observing that this effort to make comparative data public was “a watershed event in health care accountability.” The Consumer Reports ratings are available to online or print subscribers along with a wide range of other consumer health ratings and medical information. The Times reports that the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, which collaborated with Consumer Reports, will be posting the ratings (for free) on the society’s website in the near future.
Unlike toaster oven testing done in the Consumer Reports lab, the publication uses data from a registry developed by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) in 1989. More than 90 percent of the approximately 1100 U.S. cardiac surgery programs participate in the registry, according to the Journal, and Consumer Reports is citing results of coronary-artery bypass grafting (CABG) procedures at 221 U.S. cardiac surgery programs.
The magazine ratings include 221 surgical groups (groups are rated, not individual doctors), from 42 states. The groups receive one, two, or three stars for below average, average, or above average.
The STS acknowledges the ongoing debate, and that the decision to provide data to the general public “was not an entirely easy sell to the profession.” They say they’ll be monitoring the discussion.