Feasibility of Report Cards for Measuring Anesthesiologist Quality for Cardiac Surgery

Published in: Anesthesia & Analgesia, Volume 122, Issue 5, pages 1603–1613 (May 2016). doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000001252

Posted on RAND.org on December 30, 2020

by Laurent G. Glance, Edward L. Hannan, Lee A. Fleisher, Michael P. Eaton, Richard P. Dutton, Stewart J. Lustik, Yue Li, Andrew W. Dick

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In creating the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System, Congress has mandated pay-for-performance (P4P) for all physicians, including anesthesiologists. There are currently no National Quality Forum-endorsed risk-adjusted outcome metrics for anesthesiologists to use as the basis for P4P.


Using clinical data from the New York State Cardiac Surgery Reporting System, we conducted a retrospective observational study of 55,436 patients undergoing cardiac surgery between 2009 and 2012. Hierarchical logistic regression modeling was used to examine the variation in in-hospital mortality or major complications (Q-wave myocardial infarction, renal failure, stroke, and respiratory failure) among anesthesiologists, controlling for patient demographics, severity of disease, comorbidities, and hospital quality.


Although the variation in performance among anesthesiologists was statistically significant (P = 0.025), none of the anesthesiologists in the sample was classified as a high- or low-performance outliers. The contribution of anesthesiologists to outcomes represented 0.51% of the overall variability in patient outcomes (intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC] = 0.0051; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.002–0.014), whereas the contribution of hospitals to patient outcomes was 2.90% (ICC = 0.029; 95% CI, 0.017–0.050). The anesthesiologist median odds ratio (MOR) was 1.13 (95% CI, 1.08–1.24), suggesting that the variation between anesthesiologist was modest, whereas the hospital MOR was 1.35 (95% CI, 1.25–1.48). In a separate analysis, the contribution of surgeons to overall outcomes represented 1.76% of the overall variability in patient outcomes (ICC = 0.018, 95% CI, 0.010–0.031), and the surgeon MOR was 1.26 (95% CI, 1.19–1.37). Twelve of the surgeons were identified as performance outliers.


The impact of anesthesiologists on the total variability in cardiac surgical outcomes was probably about one-fourth as large as the surgeons' contribution. None of the anesthesiologists caring for cardiac surgical patients in New York State over a 3+ year period were identified as performance outliers. The use of a performance metric based on death or major complications for P4P may not be feasible for cardiac anesthesiologists.

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