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The Surgical Coach

Wed, 10/05/2011 - 5:26am

By now, most medical people have read or heard about Dr. Atul Gawande’s latest New Yorker piece. After taking a tennis lesson which improved his game, he decided to see if acquiring a “surgical coach” would improve his “surgical game. He wanted to continue to reduce his—[self-described] already lower than the national average but level for a few years—complication rate. He enlisted a retired surgeon, who was a mentor during his residency training, as a “coach,” and his complication rate is falling again.

I was asked to comment by Dan Diamond, Managing Editor of The Advisory Board’s Daily Briefing. He quoted me in his commentary on Gawande’s concept:

But not all think that Gawande's article heralds a viable model.

The blogger known as Skeptical Scalpel—a longtime surgeon and former surgical department chair who writes under a pseudonym—told the Briefing that he's, well, skeptical about the ideas that Gawande raises.

"I would accept a coach but doubt I could find one," according to Skeptical Scalpel, particularly a coach as talented, experienced, and available as Osteen. He adds that surgeons often are challenged by issues outside of the operating room, such as in areas like diagnosis, communication, and bedside manner. Skeptical Scalpel also wonders whether the coach would be liable if the patient experienced complications and elected to sue.

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