Robert J. Dambrino IV, Scott L. Zuckerman, Bradley S. Guidry, Henry J. Domenico, Reid C. Thompson, Mitchell B. Galloway, James W. Pichert and William O. Cooper
The number of unsolicited patient complaints (UPCs) about surgeons correlates with surgical complications and malpractice claims. Using a large, national patient complaint database, the authors sought to do the following: 1) compare the rates of UPCs for neurosurgeons to those for other physicians, 2) analyze the risk of UPCs with individual neurosurgeon characteristics, and 3) describe the types of UPCs made about neurosurgeons.
Patient and family complaint reports among 36,265 physicians, including 423 neurosurgeons, 8292 other surgeons, and 27,550 nonsurgeons who practiced at 33 medical centers (22 academic and 11 regional) from January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2017, were coded with a previously validated Patient Advocacy Reporting System (PARS) algorithm.
Among 423 neurosurgeons, 93% were male, and most (71%) practiced in academic medical centers. Neurosurgical subspecialties included general practice (25%), spine (25%), tumor (16%), vascular (13%), functional (10%), and pediatrics (10%). Neurosurgeons had more average total UPCs per physician (8.68; 95% CI 7.68–9.67) than nonsurgeons (3.40; 95% CI 3.33–3.47) and other surgeons (5.01; 95% CI 4.85–5.17; p < 0.001). In addition, a significantly higher percentage of neurosurgeons received at least one UPC (71.6%; 95% CI 67.3%–75.9%) than did nonsurgeons (50.2%; 95% CI 49.6%–50.8%) and other surgeons (58.2%; 95% CI 57.1%–59.3%; p < 0.001). Factors most associated with increased average UPCs were younger age, measured as median medical school graduation year (1990.5 in the 0-UPC group vs 1993 in the 14+-UPC group, p = 0.009) and spine subspecialty (13.4 mean UPCs in spine vs 7.9 mean UPCs in other specialties, 95% CI 2.3–8.5, p < 0.001). No difference in complaints was seen in those who graduated from non-US versus US medical schools (p = 0.605). The most common complaint types were related to issues surrounding care and treatment, communication, and accessibility, each of which was significantly more common for neurosurgeons than other surgical specialties (p < 0.001).
Neurosurgeons were more likely to generate UPCs than other surgical specialties, and almost 3 out of 4 neurosurgeons (71.6%) had at least one UPC during the study period. Prior studies have shown that feedback to physicians about behavior can result in fewer UPCs. These results suggest that neurosurgeons have opportunities to reduce complaints and potentially improve the overall quality of care delivered.
James C. Dickerson, Katherine L. Harriel, Robert J. Dambrino IV, Lorne I. Taylor, Jordan A. Rimes, Ryan W. Chapman, Andrew S. Desrosiers, Jason E. Tullis and Chad W. Washington
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a major focus of patient safety indicators and a common cause of morbidity and mortality. Many practices have employed lower-extremity screening ultrasonography in addition to chemoprophylaxis and the use of sequential compression devices in an effort to reduce poor outcomes. However, the role of screening in directly decreasing pulmonary emboli (PEs) and mortality is unclear. At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a policy change provided the opportunity to compare independent groups: patients treated under a prior paradigm of weekly screening ultrasonography versus a post–policy change group in which weekly surveillance was no longer performed.
A total of 2532 consecutive cases were reviewed, with a 4-month washout period around the time of the policy change. Criteria for inclusion were admission to the neurosurgical service or consultation for ≥ 72 hours and hospitalization for ≥ 72 hours. Patients with a known diagnosis of DVT on admission or previous inferior vena cava (IVC) filter placement were excluded. The primary outcome examined was the rate of PE diagnosis, with secondary outcomes of all-cause mortality at discharge, DVT diagnosis rate, and IVC filter placement rate. A p value < 0.05 was considered significant.
A total of 485 patients met the criteria for the pre–policy change group and 504 for the post–policy change group. Data are presented as screening (pre–policy change) versus no screening (post–policy change). There was no difference in the PE rate (2% in both groups, p = 0.72) or all-cause mortality at discharge (7% vs 6%, p = 0.49). There were significant differences in the lower-extremity DVT rate (10% vs 3%, p < 0.01) or IVC filter rate (6% vs 2%, p < 0.01).
Based on these data, screening Doppler ultrasound examinations, in conjunction with standard-of-practice techniques to prevent thromboembolism, do not appear to confer a benefit to patients. While the screening group had significantly higher rates of DVT diagnosis and IVC filter placement, the screening, additional diagnoses, and subsequent interventions did not appear to improve patient outcomes. Ultimately, this makes DVT screening difficult to justify.