A 2003 list of surgical volume for a number of procedures by doctors at hospitals in New York State is on the web, available for your perusal. [Update: Link no longer works.]
If you wanted to ask for a quality measurement for a doctor or hospital, volume might be one thing you’d want to know. It’s better to have a surgeon who’s done 400 appendectomies than one who’s done 14, right? So it’s valid to ask how many surgeries a doctor has done.
The list, published by the Center for Medical Consumers, contains information for doctors and hospitals across New York State for a range of procedures, is preceded by a lot of cautionary language explaining that volume is not a proxy for quality, though it’s a useful metric:
‘The relationship between volume and experience and quality has not been firmly established for every procedure or diagnosis,”says one explanatory note. “But a growing number of published studies do provide evidence that volume and high quality outcomes are related for a number of diverse medical conditions and interventions such as cardiac surgery, cancer and AIDS treatment. In light of such studies, and because it makes common sense, the Center believes it is reasonable to view procedural and diagnostic volume as an important indicator of a hospital’s or physician’s experience. However, consumers should be aware that a high volume of surgical procedures does not guarantee a high quality outcome. Because comparative hospital and physician volume information does not require the risk adjustment that is necessary when reporting comparative outcome information, the data collection, analysis and publication of volume data are far less resource intensive than what is required for reporting medical outcomes.”
High volume can also mean overuse, the explanatory material adds.
In any case, more knowledge is generally better than less knowledge. We’re not sure why this list hasn’t been updated since 2003; we’ll ask and tell you what we find out.