American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Improving Outcomes Key to ACA’s Mission to Bend Cost Curve


WASHINGTON, DC (October 4, 2013): In the midst of a federal shutdown stemming from lawmakers’ disagreement over the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the impact of the ACA was explored at a National Journal half-day forum Thursday that featured a variety of key health care decision makers, including American College of Surgeons’ Research and Optimal Care Director Clifford Ko, MD, MS, MSHA, FACS.

If the ACA survives to achieve its mission to bend the cost curve of health care, Dr. Ko said it must be successful in improving health care outcomes by efficiently collecting accurate, risk-adjusted data and setting the right metrics.

“We need good, rigorous, and believable data that physicians on the frontline will trust and buy into,” Dr. Ko said. “And we need to be able to collect the data without a lot of burden.” American College of Surgeons databases, such as the National Cancer Data Base (NCDB) and the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP®), have focused on collecting robust data. “We are not there yet totally, but we are getting there,” he said.

“Metrics are essential,” Dr. Ko said. “What we need is more and better metrics. We continually need to accurately and appropriately measure the care we’re delivering.”

While improving outcomes on a consistent and sustained basis is a difficult task, it can be done. The American College of Surgeons, which has led a number of initiatives to improve quality in such areas as trauma, cancer and surgical quality over the last century, has built its quality programs on four key principles: Set the Standards, Build the Right Infrastructure, Use Robust Patient Data and Verify.

Robust data can help hospitals improve the health of patients and reduce costs. Research has shown that hospitals that participate in ACS NSQIP prevent an average of 250 to 500 complications each year, saving 12 to 36 lives and $3 million per hospital per year.1

Dr. Ko was part of a panel that discussed the ACA and its potential to bend the cost curve at the National Journal’s Countdown to Transformation: A Roadmap to Health Care's Next Era – 90 Days Out. The forum examined the complex political, medical, and business ramifications of the implementation of the ACA. Participants included key decision makers from all corners impacted by the new law.

1: Hall BL, et al. “Does Surgical Quality Improve in the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program?” Ann Surg. 2009; 250:363-376.

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About the American College of Surgeons
The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 79,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit


Sally Garneski