Operative Skill – the New Gold Standard in Surgeon Selection?

surgeon, surgeon wearing scrubs

credit: Flickr

A school of notable repute may be moving down the list of important criteria in patient selection of their surgeon. Recent research findings from the Michigan Bariatric Surgery Collaborative indicate that a surgeon’s natural operative skill, rather than his or her training, may have a larger impact in reducing mortality, infection and need for further, corrective operations.

Currently in the US, patients have few standard methods of evaluating surgeon skill. They use hospital statistics, word-of-mouth recommendations, or where the surgeon trained as measurement of their abilities. Organizations such as The Leapfrog Group are working to add to the selection process an evaluation of operative skill.

The question of whether patients may be better off with a surgeon with more ‘natural talent’ isn’t new. In 1999 the UK was rocked by the Bristol heart surgery tragedy. A public inquiry into 95 open heart surgeries which resulted in patient death showed 34 of the deaths may have been avoided if patients were treated elsewhere. An analysis of the performance of the surgeons in Bristol’s pediatric heart unit compared to specialists in 11 other centers in England were described as “significantly different”

What do you think the implications are for surgeons?  What portion of operative skill is training versus “innate ability?”  How do you think we could define a system of measuring skill and how would that impact current surgeons?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our blog and if you’re an M.D. or D.O. please feel free to join us inside Sermo for further discussion.

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