Free websites to check surgeons' records

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- People scheduled for surgery now have 2 new tools to help them check their doctor's performance - for free.

Both were created by non-profit consumer groups.

And both are based on data from Medicare, so they lack information on younger patients, or those on private insurance.

ProPublica's website scores surgeons based on their complication and death rates for 8 common operations.

Patients can see whether hospitals are above, on par, or below the average complication rate.

They can also see how all the doctors doing that procedure at a hospital rate.

The group notes that even at good hospitals, performance rates can vary among surgeons.

ProPublica says the goal of the scorecards is to help address medical mishaps, a pressing problem in healthcare for nearly 20 years.

It says ratings are based on two measures: deaths while in the hospital and readmissions to the hospital within 30 days.

Another non-profit - Consumer's Checkbook - has also launched a website rating more than 50-thousand doctors for 14 high-risk surgeries.

Dr. Robert Krughoff, the founder of Consumer's Checkbook, says 4-million case records were used to create the database.

Dr. Krughoff explains that stars are used to rank surgeons, but people can also see whether the doctor they have in mind is being recommended by colleagues, and how many colleagues are making recommendations.

Boxes with dash symbols indicate there's not enough data available for evaluation.

Action News noted that many well-known, high-profile doctors are missing from the rankings.

Krughoff defended their absence.

"Either we didn't have enough data on those doctors, because they hadn't done enough of these surgeries, or their results were not good enough to make the list," he told us.

"We hope consumers will use it (the database) to chose, to chose surgeons where they have much better chances of good results and avoiding problems," says Dr. Krughoff.

He says past experience has shown that Medicare data roughly echoes that for all Americans.

"The surgeons who do well with Medicare patients do well overall," he told Action News.

The Consumers' Checkbooksite uses data from 2009-2012, but will be updated as a new year's data becomes available.

Both websites are free.