Heart Surgeon Report Cards Often Misinterpreted

Report cards that rate heart surgeons on death and complication rates are now available on multiple government, insurance company, and commercial websites. But this information is not always presented in ways that are easy for people to understand and often leads to misinterpretation, reports the November 2012 Harvard Heart Letter.

Researcher created reports on several fictitious surgeons. The reports included the number of coronary artery bypass graft operations performed, the number and percentage of patients who died during or soon after the operation, and risk-adjusted mortality. How well volunteers were able to identify the best surgeon depended on how the information was presented. With the best format, 66% of those surveyed picked the best surgeon; with the worst, just 16% did. Many people focused on the number of deaths rather than on the more important number—risk-adjusted mortality.

Last Updated 8/2/2017

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