Stressing it’s only one factor — albeit, statistically an important one — a new report shows that if you want to pick a hospital for cancer surgery based on frequency of the procedure, Geisinger Wyoming Valley is usually the choice in Luzerne County.
“Reporting volume for these cancer surgeries is important because there is strong evidence in the scientific literature that links hospital surgical volume and patient outcomes,” Joseph Martin said in a media release unveiling the new report by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.
The report stresses that choosing a facility for surgery shouldn’t hinge solely on who has done the most procedures, but that it can be a useful part of the decision. Martin, the council’s executive director, also noted the importance of looking at the volume for a specific procedure at each hospital.
“Hospitals could have a low number of cases for one type of cancer surgery and a high number of cases for another, so it’s important to look at the full picture when considering options.”
The report notes that for six cancers — bladder, esophagus, liver, pancreas, rectum and stomach —more than a third of hospitals statewide performed only one or two surgeries for fiscal year 2017, running from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.
Comparing some numbers for Geisinger Wyoming Valley and Wilkes-Barre General demonstrates the point. Geisinger did substantially more surgeries for cancer of the brain (32 to 5), pancreas (13 to none) and prostrate (41 to 16). General did considerably more colon cancer procedures (50 to 37). Yet the gaps narrow for other procedures, including bladder cancer (three at Geisinger and four at General) and stomach cancer (two each).
Numbers for the county’s third major facility, Lehigh Valley Hospital — Hazleton, are far lower. While Geisinger Wyoming Valley did a total of 288 surgeries among the 11 cancers and Wilkes-Barre General did 190, the Hazleton facility did only 26, in six of the 11 cancers reviewed. It hit double digits (12) in only one of those six: colon cancer surgery.
But that’s likely because serious Hazleton cases are transferred to the larger Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, where 562 surgeries were done in all 11 cancers, more than any single regional hospital (Geisinger Medical Center in Danville did 479).
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish