A tradition at the Vascular Annual Meeting, the E. Stanley Crawford Critical Issues Forum is organized by the incoming SVS President and devotes itself to assessing and discussing particular challenges currently facing the society. This year’s Forum focused on how vascular surgeons could use evidence-based medicine to develop tools to improve outcomes, reduce costs, and ensure appropriate utilization of resources.
Session moderator and organizer Kim J. Hodgson, MD, SVS president-elect and chair of the division of vascular surgery at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, outlined the problem in his introductory presentation “Why Good Outcomes Are No Longer Good Enough.”
He pointed out how there are several driving forces influencing the inappropriate use of medical procedures, resulting in diminished quality of outcomes and increased costs of health care: These comprise incorrect evaluation, incorrect treatment and planning, and improper motivation. The first two factors can be improved through education and development and promulgation of evidence-based medical practices, but the last is correctable only through enforced regulation and peer-review. This has become increasingly more difficult as procedures move from the hospital to outpatient centers, where the profit motive for performing inappropriate procedures, and the means to satisfy it, are increasingly more tempting.
He emphasized how SVS has tools such as the Vascular Quality Initiative and its registries to provide evidence-based input on the appropriateness of procedures and whether an institution is matching up to its peers in providing appropriate patient care. The importance of the VQI was also stressed by the majority of the Crawford Forum speakers.
“Unfortunately, like it or not, the reality is that some degree of regulation is inevitable, and if we don’t step up and regulate ourselves, there are plenty of other people willing to do it for us. I would say that we let the bureaucrats develop our EHRs, and you know how that worked out. So, I think it is incumbent upon us to be able to regulate ourselves.”
Dr. Hodgson turned over the discussion to Arlene Seid, MD, MPH, medical director of the quality assurance office within the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Her presentation, “The Government’s Perspective on When & Where Endovascular Interventions Should Be Performed,” detailed how her department recently became concerned about an increase in the volume of endovascular procedures, and complications thereof, mainly in outpatient settings. The department also raised questions about the procedures and discussed whether reimbursement via programs such as Medicaid should be ceased.
She pointed out how federal regulations from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) only regulate through payments and their choice of procedures to be reimbursed, the vast majority of other regulations are established at the state level and vary widely from state to state. And at the state level, such as hers, there was great difficulty finding trustworthy expert opinion, and she added how organizations like the SVS could be of tremendous use in providing guidance in developing regulations.
As an example she used Ambulatory Surgical Centers, which are defined differently from state to state and vary widely in their requirements for licensing. The state’s job is made much simpler, and more effective, when expert organizations like the SVS can provide certification programs as a firm foundation for basing such licensing efforts.
She also suggested that if individuals have problems with or disagree with state regulations, they must become knowledgeable as to what level of state organization is involved, and ideally enlist the help of groups such as SVS to provide the expert justification for change.