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'Alarmed' Senate Committee Wants Action on Concurrent Surgeries

By Debra Shute  
   December 07, 2016

A Senate Finance Committee report calls for "additional measures" to address two major concerns related to the practice of overlapping surgeries: patient safety and improper payments.

Hospitals that haven't yet settled on strict definitions and policies governing the practice of simultaneous surgeries are on notice.

A Senate Finance Committee report released Tuesday acknowledges that "evidence on the practice—safe or otherwise—of concurrent or overlapping surgeries is lacking," but calls for "additional measures" to address two major concerns, patient safety and improper payments by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

"Absence of data," the report notes, "does not mean that there is no risk."

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) updated its guidance on concurrent surgeries last spring in the wake of an investigation into the practice at Massachusetts General Hospital by the Boston Globe.

Concurrent Surgery Gets the Spotlight Treatment

The Senate Finance Committee's investigation was in turn sparked by the Globe's report, which rendered the Committee "alarmed by the allegations of patient harm, surgeon misconduct, and inappropriate billing."

In response, its chairman, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), ordered an investigation of 20 hospital systems to ascertain the nature of their policies for simultaneous surgeries.

Defining and Disclosing
While 17 of the 20 hospitals in the Senate inquiry modified or created policies to measure up to ACS standards, the policies of three systems were not complete in time for inclusion in the report.

Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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