Cardiac Surgery Reporting in NY State: Is it Reliable?


This post originally appeared on

When deciding on which car or college — or, increasingly, health care provider — to choose, many of us compare reviews and ratings in such sources as Consumer Reports and U.S. News & World Report. More than two decades ago, the New York State Department of Health, itself, began to report information on cardiac surgery because the Commissioner of Health noticed wide variations in mortality rate and complications reported by different hospitals in the state.

History of Cardiac Surgery Reporting in New York

Results, adjusted for patient risk, were first released to the New York Times in 1990 with the hospitals numbered, but not named. However, the following day, the hospitals were named and, after a lawsuit based on the Freedom of Information Act, mortality figures for individual surgeons were made public within a few years. Risk adjustment methodology aimed to correct for how severely ill the patients were in any one doctor’s practice or in any single hospital, to allow for valid comparisons.

There was intense interest in those early days, with newspapers publishing performance “league tables” on the front page. Similar public reporting systems followed in other states. With time, the novelty wore off, and now, when the results are published, they appear buried deep in the middle of local tabloids.

Benefits, and Shortcomings, of the Reporting System

What has the benefit of the New York reporting system been, and what should members of the public make of the information? In states like New York and others that began reporting on cardiac surgery, but also in states where public reporting of collected information was not a feature, the risk of dying from coronary bypass surgery fell significantly. For hospitals and surgeons, comparative data can be useful to guide efforts aimed at continuous improvement of quality care.

The system is not without its problems. Unfortunately, published results in New York appear almost three years after the information is gathered. Complex statistical models are used to analyze the data, but most people, including physicians, are not qualified to interpret the nuances.

In reality, the mortality rates of almost all hospitals and surgeons in every reporting cycle are statistically NOT different. So, for example, if one hospital has a mortality rate of 2.2% and another has 2.4%, there is no evidence of a difference between the two, even if by reflex we think the lower mortality is better. Movement up and down the league table from year to year is quite random and suggests that most differences are the product of chance.

Discussion with Surgeon the Best Way to Estimate Risks and Benefits of Surgery

Coronary bypass surgery has been performed for 50 years, and exceptional results are now being achieved, even as the average patient is older, sicker and more complex. At Beth Israel Medical Center, every coronary bypass is performed by two experienced surgeons, with a dedicated team to support them, and post-operative care is supervised personally by the cardiac surgeons — not delegated to other practitioners. No care is provided by residents (doctors in training). For patients, a full discussion with their surgeons and heart team will allow proper estimation of the risks and benefits of surgery.

Learn more about the surgical options available.

Information provided by Darryl Hoffman, MD, Attending Cardiac Surgeon at Beth Israel Medical Center.


Apple says its systems not to blame for…

By Edwin Chan and Christina FarrSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The week before a crucial launch of its new iPhone, Apple Inc said intimate photos of…


Tallest residential building planned for lower Manhattan

A residential tower planned for lower Manhattan will soar 1,356 feet in the air -- just 12 feet shy of 1 World Trade Center. When…


Bronx man commits suicide by decapitation

A Bronx man committed suicide Monday morning in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx by decapitating himself. According to the NYPD, the 51-year-old man…


Top cops enroll in Twitter course at John…

NYPD officers are reportedly getting a lesson on the best way to use 140 characters or less. The New York Post reported Tuesday top officers…


Pop culture and prostitutes: New Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit at…

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec documented the cult of celebrity and the rise of pop entertainment in his prints, posters and lithographs — now on display at MoMA.


PHOTO: Extreme artist Eskil Ronningsbakken balances unicycle on…

Extreme artist’ Eskil Ronningsbakken balances on the edge of a cliff face at 4,600 feet – on a unicycle. The Norwegian travels across the globe, balancing over vertiginous ravines, tall…


Hear two previously unreleased Adele songs

Missing some Adele in your life? Two previously unreleased songs from the singer have appeared online.


Lincoln Center just made 'Lord of the Rings'…

Middle Earth already has sweeping vistas, a hero's journey and technology-revolutionizing special effects. But next April, the Lincoln Center will add another dimension to Peter Jackson's…


10 storylines to watch for the Giants this…

The Giants rebounded from an embarrassing 0-6 start last season, but not well enough to make the playoffs.


Michael Vick set to be weekly guest with…

Mike Francesa may need to backtrack from his harsh commentary of Michael Vick now that the Jets backup quarterback will be a weekly guest on his show.


Jets expect to make playoffs after sitting on…

The same pundits who predicted the Jets would be woeful a season ago are now eying the playoffs for this revamped team.


Antonio Allen returns to practice after concussion

Antonio Allen was cleared to practice again following his concussion two weeks ago.


In defense of making a mess during playtime

"Recipes for Play" authors Rachel Sumner and Ruth Mitchener think playtime should involve the five senses and making a mess is part of the fun.


Jason Hope helps push anti-aging efforts forward

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article When it comes to age-related illness, the direction of modern medicine seems more reactive than proactive. In…


Today's Doomsday preppers: a closer look at survivalist…

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. The term “Doomsday prepper” is often associated with the paranoid, anti-government stereotype of the 1990s. The truth…


These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…