California singles out docs with higher patient death rates: Kaiser Health News

Filed Under: Costs, Patients, Providers

“Michael Koumjian, a heart surgeon for nearly three decades, said he considered treating the sickest patients a badge of honor. The San Diego doctor was frequently called upon to operate on those who had multiple illnesses or who’d undergone CPR before arriving at the hospital,” Anna Gorman wrote recently for Kaiser Health News. “Recently, however, Koumjian received some unwelcome recognition: He was identified in a public database of California heart surgeons as one of seven with a higher-than-average death rate for patients who underwent a common bypass procedure. ‘If you are willing to give people a shot and their only chance is surgery, then you are going to have more deaths and be criticized,’ said Koumjian, whose risk-adjusted death rate was 7.5 per 100 surgeries in 2014-15. ‘The surgeons that worry about their stats just don’t take those cases.’ Now, Koumjian said he is reconsidering taking such complicated cases because he can’t afford to continue being labeled a ‘bad surgeon.’ California is one of a handful of states — including New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey — that publicly reports surgeons’ names and risk-adjusted death rates on a procedure known as the ‘isolated coronary artery bypass graft.’ The practice is controversial: Proponents argue transparency improves quality and informs consumers. Critics say it deters surgeons from accepting complex cases and can unfairly tarnish doctors’ records.” Anna Gorman, “Calif. Hits Nerve By Singling Out Cardiac Surgeons With Higher Patient Death Rates,” Kaiser Health News.