Many countries publicly report data on the quality of health care. Because surgical patients often have time to plan their care they are ideal candidates to use such data. The authors examined the adequacy of publicly reported data about surgical quality in California. They used data specific to California because this state is the most populous in the United States and more surgery is done here than in any other state. The authors found few data to help a consumer interested in using quality to select a surgeon or hospital, and the existing data had serious shortcomings. Without a new major effort to increase both the number of procedures for which quality measures are available and the validity of those measures, most California consumers will not be able to choose surgical providers based on quality. A competitive market cannot exist under these conditions.
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