Tongue added, however, that "any plan to link performance measures to Medicare payments be created and endorsed by the medical specialty associations and their members, to fully meet the requirement of being meaningful in a clinical context."
Naunheim, of STS, emphasizes that for most other specialties, and even for some parts of cardiothoracic surgery, the field of quality measurement is still young. "There are very few specialties that do this on a regular basis, but that's the coming trend. That's what the public is going to demand; it's what CMS wants and what third party payers want. We're just one of the first groups to start putting our results out there."
The STS now posts one, two or three-star scores for medical groups and hospitals that do open heart cases and agreed to public voluntary reporting.
Might some professional societies turn away, hoping the drive for more database reporting will quietly disappear? Naunheim says there are some who "aren't happy about it. But to be brutally honest about it, we weren't happy about it either. We started ours when New York State published raw mortality data for heart surgery that wasn't risk adjusted."
It was, he said, "a kick in the pants."
So they developed their own risk adjustment model and started collecting the data themselves. "It woke up cardiothoracic surgery as a specialty, because we said to ourselves, if we don't do it, they're going to do it, and besides, it's within our professional responsibility to do it."