As more patients are exposed to the risk calculator, Bilimoria says, it could mean fewer surgeries, especially when risks clearly outweigh benefits. Patients may choose to avoid potential harm that seems more likely when the bar on the online chart shows higher risk.
But he says that it won't reduce surgeries by much. What it will do is help doctors do a better job of giving patients realistic expectations, so they are not surprised if the surgery doesn't go as planned.
The reasons for developing such a calculator are many, Bilimoria says. Obviously, patients have a right to realistically know the chance a surgical procedure will be successful and give informed consent in a shared decision-making process.
Even if the procedure is risky, and a patient decides to proceed, and there's a complication, "it sets up more realistic expectations if a complication does occur," he explains.
The tool is designed for surgeons to use during an office visit with their patients, who can see "very quickly if they have a higher risk because the bar turns red, and gives the percentage. It really draws your attention," he says.
But there's another important reason for such a risk calculator. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in a proposed rule earlier this year, said that such a risk calculator might be an optional alternative to generate reimbursement under the Physician Quality Reporting System, through which physicians who report quality data can earn 2 or 3% more when taking care of Medicare beneficiaries.