Bilimoria acknowledges that today, many surgeons don't really know how to assess patients' risk for most procedures, so many provide reassurance with generalities. For example, should the patient ask about a doctor's surgical track record, the surgeon may respond that his complication rates are low, or that the patient shouldn't worry because the doctor is experienced at doing that operation.
"That may still be the case.," Bilimoria says. "But the beauty of this risk calculator is that it takes into account the individual patient's risk factors, the type of operation they're going to have, and then generates their personalized risk factors."
The 23-question web page can be quickly filled out online by the doctor with the patient, or even by the patient alone if he or she knows the name of the surgery or appropriate CPT code. Risk factors such as age, height and weight, whether the patient is ventilator-dependent or has had a previous cardiac event, are all factored into the algorithm.
The calculator shows the probability of death or any complication, and the probability of a host of specific potential complications as well as the predicted length of hospital stay. It also calculates whether the adverse event risk for that patient is below average, average, or above average.