Patients in the United States might be taking a bigger risk than they bargain for while choosing their preferred hospital for surgery as government numbers used to judge the hospital quality may actually not mean much.  

The quality of data often does not co-relate to the risk of infection for surgical patients, says a research paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association earlier this week. 

The study says that based on public hospital comparisons from the Department of Health and Human Services, it appears as if the data reported to the government departments do not correlate to the surgical patient risk.  

The research, undertaken by the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, pored over more than 400,000 patient records from 398 hospitals across the United States and examined the links between adherence to six infection prevention surgical care improvement project (SCIP) measures and the probability of a patient's post-operative infection. 

Using a single SCIP measure as per current mandate did not make any significant difference in gauging patient risk, according to lead author Johan Stulberg. However, using more than one SCIP measure proved more accurate at predicting post-operative infection and leading to a 15 percent risk decline. 

The researchers have recommended that SCIP must mandate checking multiple measures and recording at every single patient visit in order to accurately predict post-surgical infection risk as they believe that the new healthcare reform will tie Medicare reimbursement to SCIP adherence.  

The six measures stipulated under the SCIP are: (a) Patients who received antibiotics within one hour prior to surgery; (b) Patients who received the appropriate antibiotic for their specific procedure; (c) Patients whose antibiotics were discontinued within 24 hours after surgery; (d) Cardiac surgery patients with a controlled postoperative blood glucose level; (e) Surgery patients with appropriate surgical site hair removal and (f) Colorectal surgery patients with immediate postoperative normothermia.