The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require hospitals to report on quality metrics which are used to financially penalize those that perform in the lowest quartile. Surgical site infections (SSIs) are a critical component of the quality metrics that target healthcare-associated infections. However, the accuracy of such hospital profiling is highly affected by small surgical volumes which lead to a large amount of uncertainty in estimating standardized hospital-specific infection rates. Currently, hospitals with less than one expected SSI are excluded from rankings, but the effectiveness of this exclusion criterion is unknown. Tools that can quantify the classification accuracy and can determine the minimal surgical volume required for a desired level of accuracy are lacking. We investigate the effect of surgical volume on the accuracy of identifying poorly performing hospitals based on the standardized infection ratio and develop simulation-based algorithms for quantifying the classification accuracy. We apply our proposed method to data from HCA Healthcare (2014-2016) on SSIs in colon surgery patients. We estimate that for a procedure like colon surgery with an overall SSI rate of 3%, to rank hospitals in the HCA colon SSI dataset, hospitals that perform less than 200 procedures have a greater than 10% chance of being incorrectly assigned to the worst performing quartile. Minimum surgical volumes and predicted events criteria are required to make evaluating hospitals reliable, and these criteria vary by overall prevalence and between-hospital variability.
© 2023. The Author(s).