To determine whether surgical quality measures that Medicare publicly reports provide a basis for patients to choose a hospital from within their geographic region.
The Department of Health and Human Services' public reporting website, .
We identified hospitals ( = 2,953) reporting adherence rates to the quality measures intended to reduce surgical site infections (Surgical Care Improvement Project, 1–3) in 2012. We defined regions within which patients were likely to compare hospitals using the hospital referral regions (s) from the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care Project. We described distributions of reported adherence within each , including medians, interquartile ranges (s), skewness, and outliers.
Ninety‐seven percent of s had median ‐1 scores ≥95 percent. In 93 percent of s, half of the hospitals in the were within 5 percent of the median hospital's score. In 62 percent of s, hospitals were skewed toward the higher rates (negative skewness). Seven percent of s demonstrated positive skewness. Only 1 percent had a positive outlier. ‐2 and ‐3 demonstrated similar distributions.
Publicly reported quality measures for surgical site infection prevention do not distinguish the majority of hospitals that patients are likely to choose from when selecting a surgical provider. More studies are needed to improve public reporting's ability to positively impact patient decision making.