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How reliable is the data provided by the NSQIP?

People across the state of Arizona -- and across the nation for that matter -- have always been concerned about whether they are receiving the highest level of care possible. This has a lot to do with the rising concern in recent years regarding medical mistakes and surgical errors that occur in hospitals nationwide.

Out of this concern though has risen the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program, which is designed to give patients a better idea of how well a certain hospital is performing and if there are any red flags that might suggest a lower standard of care. But while the American College of Surgeons believes that this program will not only prevent complications and save lives by directing patients to high performing hospitals, a new report suggests that this data might not be as reliable as people think.

According to surgeons from the University of Michigan Health System, which took a look at 2009 NSQIP complication and mortality data across thousands of cases, few hospitals met the threshold for “reliability.” Herein lies the problem, researchers say. They pointed out in their report that even well-performing hospitals were labeled as poor performers, giving patients the wrong impression about their safety.

This is likely because of benchmarks that are established based on an incredibly small pool of cases. Without a broader scope, it’s nearly impossible to clearly define what “quality” is. This might even result in a rise in medical mistakes, especially if more patients are going to poor-quality hospitals simply because the database has mistakenly labeled them as doing fine.

Source: Modern Healthcare, “Report says surgical-outcomes data unreliable for comparing hospitals,” Andis Robeznieks, Mar. 12, 2014

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