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Cardiologists under fire after NYT piece critiques their stats

The New York Times recently ran a publication that delves into the surgical complications and deaths of a hospital's pediatric heart surgery program. The researchers with the piece state the hospital's mortality rate started going up in 2013. From 2013 to 2017, the facility reported a cardiac surgery mortality rate of 4.7%.

The paper states this figure exceeds reported mortality rates from facilities who perform similar procedures. As a result, it has led the public to call into question the methods used by the facility.

How accurate is the data? The hospital staff states the data is not a true reflection of their department. They point to the fact that they tend to serve a high-risk population. The medical experts state the patients they serve tend to be at a greater risk for a negative outcome compared to other facilities. As a result, the mortality rate is not a true reflection of their abilities or the quality of care provided to patients.

How did this report impact the facility? The report has brought national negative attention to the facility. The facility and its staff are under scrutiny by the public and former patients who experienced negative outcomes are seeking legal counsel to see if they have a case against the physician or facility.

The experience provides two take-away lessons for physicians who are concerned about the quality of care provided by their facilities:

  1. A push for change can be successful. The New York Times piece featured multiple recordings of private meetings between hospital executives and physicians. These recordings, now public, included physicians pushing their superiors to address the problem. Although it took time, the concerns were addressed. If you have a concern, you are probably not alone. In these situations, it is generally best to follow proper protocol to try to address the concern and ensure the facility provides proper patient care. If the issue is serious, you may want to seek legal counsel to better ensure your interest are protected.
  2. Negative publicity can lead to legal problems. Publicity of this nature will cause former patients to review their experience and check for any signs of malpractice. It is very likely this expose will result in a slew of additional lawsuits against those involved. This serves as a reminder to always practice within the accepted standard of care so your reputation is more likely to withstand such scrutiny.

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