Taking the Temperature of Surgery Quality

Ubiquitous in modern society, the thermometer was once a breakthrough technology centuries in the making. When leading scientists some 300 years ago finally put together the necessary elements, what resulted was revolutionary.

At a glance, you could know the temperature. You didn’t know relative humidity, wind speed, or any of a number of other factors important to understanding the weather. But you knew, with little effort, the most important piece of the puzzle.

As a healthcare leader, I bet you wish you had a tool that made measurement of quality this simple.

Perhaps you’ve never thought much about the quality of surgery services delivered for your members. Or maybe you’ve invested in a “surgery centers of excellence” program. Such programs tend to incorporate some aspects of quality (such as infection rates and patient satisfaction). They also tend to emphasize providers who are willing to accept lower payment rates, leaving some to wonder, “So did they earn their ‘excellence’ designation or buy it with discounts?”

We believe the best way to assess surgery quality is to take a look at the way the procedures are performed. If you have access to procedural codes for your population, you have all the information you need.

The answer:  minimally-invasive surgery. There is more to the puzzle of a 21st century surgical experience—namely, Enhanced Recovery After Surgery. Yet, if you understand the utilization of minimally-invasive surgery for your population, you have a big piece of the puzzle.

The benefits of minimally-invasive surgery are numerous, including:

  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Less pain
  • Faster healing

Take the temperature of surgery quality by reviewing the utilization of minimally-invasive procedures in a handful of surgery types:

  • Colon Resection
  • Hysterectomy
  • Inguinal Hernia
  • Ventral Hernia

If your population is above 5% “open rate” in any of these four surgery types, you have a surgery quality problem.

No matter what the billboard, surgery center of excellence designation or even the traditional outcomes numbers might say. Your members face an unnecessary level of risk in their surgeries and recoveries if they are receiving open procedures at any significant rate.

A lack of transparency about what’s possible in surgery led us here. Now we know better. We know the “temperature”.

What will we do with it?