Feds seek information on concurrent surgeries at 20 medical facilities: 7 things to know

Twenty hospitals and health systems in the United States were asked to describe their policies for concurrent surgeries, when a surgeon runs two operations at the same time, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report.

The request came via a fact-finding letter from the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

Here are seven things to know about the inquiry.

1. The committee declined to provide the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with a list of medical facilities receiving the letter.

2. In the letter, signed by committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), federal officials do not accuse any organization of wrongdoing, or suggest any hospital is under investigation, according to the report. However, the letter does request detailed information about the organizations' monitoring and oversight of the practice and, in particular, whether patients are told if they're sharing their surgeon with someone else, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

3. "We are especially concerned by reports that in some cases, steps have been taken to actively conceal this practice from patients," the letter states, according to the report.

4. The letter appears to have been prompted, at least partly, by stories published in the Boston Globe over the last several months, which detail disagreements within the medical community about the propriety of physicians performing concurrent surgeries, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

5. The Boston Globe reports include instances where the surgeon is unavailable during urgent situations, as well as instances where a patient was kept under anesthesia for an extended period or suffered damages because the surgeon was not present, according to the report.

6. CMS allows surgeons to bill for concurrent surgeries under certain circumstances and requires an attending physician's presence during critical portions of the operations.

7. The American College of Surgeons is updating principles for the physician's responsibilities in the operating room to hopefully drive consistency in the future. Current standards allow surgeons to delegate portions of the surgery, but also say the physician should be in or near the OR for the entire procedure and patients should be told about the situation before undergoing surgery.


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