On July 14, 2015, ProPublica published its Surgeon Scorecard, which displays "Adjusted Complication Rates" for individual, named surgeons for eight surgical procedures performed in hospitals. Public reports of provider performance have the potential to improve the quality of health care that patients receive. A valid performance report can drive quality improvement and usefully inform patients' choices of providers. However, performance reports with poor validity and reliability are potentially damaging to all involved. This perspective critiques the methods underlying the Scorecard and identifies opportunities for improvement. Until these opportunities are addressed, the authors advise users of the Scorecard — most notably, patients who might be choosing their surgeons — not to consider the Scorecard a valid or reliable predictor of the health outcomes any individual surgeon is likely to provide. The authors hope that this methodological critique will contribute to the development of more-valid and more-reliable performance reports in the future.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND Health.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation perspective series. RAND perspectives present informed perspective on a timely topic that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND perspectives undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

Permission is given to duplicate this electronic document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Copies may not be duplicated for commercial purposes. Unauthorized posting of RAND PDFs to a non-RAND Web site is prohibited. RAND PDFs are protected under copyright law. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit the RAND Permissions page.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.