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Better Bariatric Surgery Outcomes Depend on Data, Accreditation

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 6, 2014

These are the kinds of statistics that help hospitals compare themselves with other organizations, and ultimately recognize problems.

Accreditation also requires bariatric programs to conduct periodic patient follow-ups out at least one year, and eventually to five, to determine how the patient did, whether they lost weight, how much, and whether they gained it back. It tracks complications such as bowel obstruction, deep vein thrombosis, bleeding, or surgical site infections, some of which may not appear until after discharge.

Astonishingly Accreditation-Free
The fact that 20% of the nation's 900 bariatric surgery programs operate without any accreditation is astonishing, especially because without careful checks, gastric bypass is a dangerous and potentially fatal procedure, requiring proper training and technical skill. I even called back Morton to double check this statistic, and he did.

Accreditation, Morton says, has greatly reduced mortality rates, which were 1% 10 years ago.

He attributes the drop in mortality to three specific changes in the way surgeons perform these procedures:

  • Research showing that the more bariatric procedures a surgeon performed, the lower the rates of mortality and other complications, which led to minimum center and surgeon volume requirements as part of accreditation.
  • Better training and certification requirements, also a requirement for accreditation.
  • The development of less invasive laparoscopic techniques instead of open gastric bypass surgeries, which yielded fewer complications.
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