Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

August 10 2015

The New Online Tool Medical Meeting Planners Need To Understand

By Carolyn Clark

Over the past five years, dramatic changes have reshaped the healthcare industry. Medical meeting planners have been working hard to help attendees adjust to new compliance codes and new legislation. Now, it’s time to help them face another new piece of patient care: the Surgeon Scorecard. Sponsored by investigative journalists at ProPublica, the Surgeon Scorecard is an online directory of the death and complication rates of nearly 17,000 surgeons. The data includes records of 2.3 million procedures submitted to Medicare between 2009 and 2013.

Unlike consumer peer-to-peer review services, this tool doesn’t feature a tiered five-star system. Instead, it calls out institutions and individual physicians with an alarm-like red exclamation point that distinguishes a “high adjusted complication rate.” Simply put, if you’re a patient searching for a candidate to perform your knee replacement, hip replacement or six other types of operations, you can use the data to help determine the top surgeons in your area. Some physicians are celebrating the new tool as an opportunity for their colleagues to understand how they’re really performing.

“It’s long overdue,” Charles Mick, a Massachusetts spine surgeon who advised on the project, said in an interview with USA TODAY. “Consider baseball. If you’re a batter but never knew if you hit the pitch, how could you know if you’re getting better?”

A Scorecard With A Failure Of A Grading System?

However, there are plenty of medical professionals who do not agree with Mick’s simple baseball analogy. John M. Mandrola, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist, wrote a thorough review of the shortcomings of the Surgeon Scorecard for Medscape.

“I believe ProPublica should admit they released the scorecard prematurely and consider taking it down until it is improved,” Mandrola wrote. “It is not ready for prime time. Its risks are greater than its benefits. They should feel bad.”

Plenty of Dr. Mandrola’s colleagues around the country echoed his opinion.

“Nothing about the scorecard words very well,” Jeffrey Parks, MD, a general surgeon wrote on his blog. “It distorts reality, clouds data, confuses patients and proffers no insight in how a surgeon might improve his/her results.”

SEE ALSO: The Fall And Rise Of The Medical Meeting

What Can Your Meeting Do?

Regardless of how your attendees feel about ongoing efforts to make medicine more transparent, tools like the Surgeon Scorecard will likely play a significant role in the future. In fact, a recent survey of 4,500 patients revealed that 44 percent of respondents were willing to go out-of-network to see physicians with good reviews even if it means incurring more costs and fees. Consumers trust online tools like Yelp and TripAdvisor for making decisions about where to eat and where to travel. As they grow increasingly comfortable on recommendations from search engines for fun, what’s stopping them from relying on similar online tools to make more serious decisions about where to turn for healthcare?

With this in mind, it’s important to add educational programming that will help physicians and nurses know how to navigate the world of online reviews and ratings. What can they do to benefit from online reviews? Are there opportunities to repair a practice’s reputation after negative reviews? Can they take steps to solidify a strong online presence? Healthcare professionals will be looking for answers; make your meeting be the source that delivers the information they need.

Looking for more insights into the current landscape of medical meetings? Check out this PCMA webinar on the latest regulatory and compliance issues that will impact your organization and your attendees.


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