New data just released on cancer surgery volume in California hospitals advance an important and complex discussion about how the frequency with which a cancer surgery is performed at a hospital might influence patient, care team and hospital decisions. An effort funded by the California HealthCare Foundation has recently made these data available for the first time for 341 California hospitals on www.CalQualityCare.org. Having these data readily available opens the door to important inquiries the hospital community is investigating closely. Transparency about cancer surgery volume is, however, just one step toward better understanding and practice. More data and close deliberation are needed, and we must take caution to avoid premature conclusions with insufficient evidence.
Accompanying the release of these data is a new report, Safety in Numbers: Cancer Surgeries in California Hospitals,highlighting important findings about the frequency and location of surgeries for 11 types of cancer.The report reveals that many hospitals performed certain cancer surgeries only once or twice in 2014 and that many cancer patients were within 50 miles of another hospital performing their needed surgery with greater frequency. The report is spurring productive discussion. However,as it is descriptive of cancer surgery volume alone and does not capture patient outcome, it calls on the hospital community to gather more evidence to inform decision-making. As conveners and catalysts for hospital improvement, the California Hospital Association and the Hospital Quality Institute, along with other leaders, are capturing this opportunity to advance the research and dialogue on cancer surgery volume.