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Evaluating Surgeons on Intraoperative Disposable Supply Costs: Details Matter

Aug 1, 2018


Cost report cards have demonstrated variation in intraoperative supply costs and may allow comparisons between surgeons. However, cost data are complex and, if not properly vetted, may be inaccurate.

A retrospective assessment of intraoperative supply costs for consecutive laparoscopic cholecystectomies (2013–2017) at a 4-facility academic center was performed. Using unadjusted data (akin to an auto-generated report card), surgeons were ranked and highest to lowest-cost ratios were calculated. Then, four stepwise adjustments were performed: (1) excluded non-comparable operations and low volume (< 10 cases) surgeons, (2) eliminated outlier cases based on instrument profiles, (3) stratified by facility, and (4) adjusted prices (assigned one price; corrected aberrant/missing prices). Surgeon rank and highest to lowest-cost ratios were then re-calculated.

The unadjusted data identified 1392 cases for 33 surgeons (range, 1–317 cases). The ratio between the highest cost and lowest cost surgeon was 4.13. Steps 1 and 2 excluded 272 cases and 15 surgeons. Facility sample sizes ranged from 144 to 621 (step 3). Adjusting prices (step 4) required manual review of 472 unique items: 45% had > 1 price and 16 had missing prices. After all adjustments, surgeons had different rankings and highest to lowest-cost ratios within sites were smaller (ratio range, 1.17–2.10).

Evaluating surgeons based on intraoperative supply costs is sensitive to analytic methods. Surgeons who were initially considered cost outliers became the least expensive within a given site. Auto-generated cost report cards may require additional analyses to produce accurate comparative assessments.

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