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Linda W. Xu, Amy Li, Christian Swinney, Maya Babu, Anand Veeravagu, Stacey Quintero Wolfe, Brian V. Nahed and John K. Ratliff

OBJECTIVE

Recently, 2 surgeon rating websites (Consumers' Checkbook and ProPublica) were published to allow the public to compare surgeons through identifying surgeon volume and complication rates. Among neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons, only cervical and lumbar spine, hip, and knee procedures were included in this assessment.

METHODS

The authors examined the methodology of each website to assess potential sources of inaccuracy. Each online tool was queried for reports on neurosurgeons specializing in spine surgery and orthopedic surgeons specializing in spine, hip, or knee surgery. Surgeons were chosen from top-ranked hospitals in the US, as recorded by a national consumer publication ranking system, within the fields of neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery. The results were compared for accuracy and surgeon representation, and the results of the 2 websites were also compared.

RESULTS

The methodology of each site was found to have opportunities for bias and limited risk adjustment. The end points assessed by each site were actually not complications, but proxies of complication occurrence. A search of 510 surgeons (401 orthopedic surgeons [79%] and 109 neurosurgeons [21%]) showed that only 28% and 56% of surgeons had data represented on Consumers' Checkbook and ProPublica, respectively. There was a significantly higher chance of finding surgeon data on ProPublica (p < 0.001). Of the surgeons from top-ranked programs with data available, 17% were quoted to have high complication rates, 13% with lower volume than other surgeons, and 79% had a 3-star out of 5-star rating. There was no significant correlation found between the number of stars a surgeon received on Consumers' Checkbook and his or her adjusted complication rate on ProPublica.

CONCLUSIONS

Both the Consumers' Checkbook and ProPublica websites have significant methodological issues. Neither site assessed complication occurrence, but rather readmissions or prolonged length of stay. Risk adjustment was limited or nonexistent. A substantial number of neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons from top-ranked hospitals have no ratings on either site, or have data that suggests they are low-volume surgeons or have higher complication rates. Consumers' Checkbook and ProPublica produced different results with little correlation between the 2 websites in how surgeons were graded. Given the significant methodological issues, incomplete data, and lack of appropriate risk stratification of patients, the featured websites may provide erroneous information to the public.

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Bryan A. Lieber, Taylor A. Wilson, Randy S. Bell, William W. Ashley Jr., Daniel L. Barrow and Stacey Quintero Wolfe

Indirect costs of the interview tour can be prohibitive. The authors sought to assess the desire of interviewees to mitigate these costs through ideas such as sharing hotel rooms and transportation, willingness to stay with local students, and the preferred modality to coordinate this collaboration. A survey link was posted on the Uncle Harvey website and the Facebook profile page of fourth-year medical students from 6 different medical schools shortly after the 2014 match day. There were a total of 156 respondents to the survey. The majority of the respondents were postinterview medical students (65.4%), but preinterview medical students (28.2%) and current residents (6.4%) also responded to the survey. Most respondents were pursuing a field other than neurosurgery (75.0%) and expressed a desire to share a hotel room and/or transportation (77.4%) as well as stay in the dorm room of a medical student at the program in which they are interviewing (70.0%). Students going into neurosurgery were significantly more likely to be interested in sharing hotel/transportation (89.2% neurosurgery vs 72.8% nonneurosurgery; p = 0.040) and in staying in the dorm room of a local student when on interviews (85.0% neurosurgery vs 57.1% nonneurosurgery; p = 0.040) than those going into other specialties. Among postinterview students, communication was preferred to be by private, email identification–only chat room. Given neurosurgery resident candidates' interest in collaborating to reduce interview costs, consideration should be given to creating a system that could allow students to coordinate cost sharing between interviewees. Moreover, interviewees should be connected to local students from neurosurgery interest groups as a resource.