Check up on surgeons’ success rate

Checkbook usually requires a subscription to check out their rankings, but they felt the information on surgeons was important enough that they decided to make it available free of charge. (Cleveland Clinic Center via AP)

WASHINGTON — If you’re thinking of checking up on your doctor, there’s a database you can search that tracks outcomes for surgeons nationwide.

The database covers concerns such as “How often do they kill people; what do their adjusted mortality rates look like; what do their complications rates look like,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at Checkbook.org.

Brasler said rates of death, complications and readmissions can vary greatly among doctors. Even within the same hospital, Brasler said, results of the same procedure can vary dramatically from doctor to doctor.

“Some have death rates that are three times higher than others within a certain area. Some have rates of compilations that are three or four times higher than others within the same region,” Brasler said.

The website allows you to search by ZIP code for surgeons doing a dozen types of procedures such as gastric bypass, angioplasty, and hip and knee replacements.

“For 10 years we fought the government to release the data behind the ratings on that site for outcomes,” Brasler said. “These data existed; the government was just unwilling to share them with the public.”

Washington Consumer’s Checkbook typically requires people to buy a subscription to see specific rankings for businesses doing various services.

The surgical outcomes rankings, however, are free. You can find them here.

“That website is available free to everyone because we just thought it was really important that those data be available,” Brasler said.

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