Purpose: Surgical outcome data are generally reported as raw morbidity and mortality rates, which do not necessarily reflect quality of surgical care. The Society for Vascular Surgery has led this area with recommendations by the Ad Hoc Committee on Reporting Standards to establish standardized methods of outcome assessment in vascular surgery. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a new method for evaluating the overall quality of surgical care, which includes surgeon, nursing, and hospital system performance. The goal of the method is to identify problem areas in surgical practice that can be targeted for focused improvement to improve outcome.
Methods: A database of more than 9000 general and vascular surgical cases was compiled over a 3-year period. Every postoperative complication was tabulated prospectively by a surgical nurse on a daily basis. Fifty clinically significant complication types specific for vascular surgery patients were identified from a list of 151 postoperative events by a panel of vascular surgeons and were grouped into nine broad categories (vascular, cardiac, pulmonary, etc.). These complications reflect the entire continuum of postoperative care, including surgeon, nursing, and hospital system performance. Each complication type was further stratified into four grades (mild, moderate, severe, death) and assigned a SCOUT severity score from 0 to 100 (0, no complication; 100, death) by the panel of surgeons. For case of data collection and monitoring of outcome, a software program was developed to run on a laptop computer and includes medical history, risk factors, pertinent laboratory data, and the preassigned SCOUT severity scores for measuring outcome. In this study, 170 major vascular procedures performed over the previous 12-month period were prospectively evaluated usig the SCOUT method in an attempt to more easily identify problem areas of practice. In-hospital morbidity and 30-day mortality results were examined.
Results: One hundred sixteen postoperative complications were identified in the 170 patients, with an overall morbidity rate of 51% and a 30-day mortality rate of 1.8%. Fifty-three percent of the complications were "mild" and required minimal intervention or observation only. Abdominal aortic aneurysm repair was associated with the highest morbidity rate (mean SCOUT score, 384.35), whereas distal extremity bypass grafting had the lowest morbidity rate (mean SCOUT score, 114.4). However, subgroup analysis demonstrated that cardiac events accounted for 52% of the morbidity associated with distal extremity bypass but only 34.7% of the morbidity associated with abdominal aortic aneurysm repair (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: The SCOUT score is a new technical quality of care measure that can objectively quantify surgeon and other hospital system-related performance. The SCOUT score allows the surgeon to identify problem areas that can then be targeted for improvement to positively affect outcome.