Variation in National ACGME Case Log Data for Pediatric Orthopaedic Fellowships: Are Fellow Coding Practices Responsible?

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Abstract

Background:

The introduction of the 80-hour work week for Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredited fellowship programs initiated many efforts to optimize surgical training. One particular area of interest is on recording and tracking surgical experiences. The current standard is logging cases based on Current Procedural Terminology codes, which are primarily designed for billing. Proposed guidelines from the ACGME regarding logging exist, but their implementation is unknown, as is the variation in case volume across fellowship programs. The purpose of this study was to investigate variability in the national case log data, and explore potential sources of variation using fellow surveys.

Methods:

National ACGME case log data for pediatric orthopaedic fellowships from 2012 to 2015 were reviewed, with particular attention to the domains of spine, pelvis/hip, arthroscopy, trauma, and other (which includes clubfoot casting). To explore potential sources of case log variability, a survey on case logging behavior was distributed to all pediatric orthopaedic fellows for the academic year 2015 to 2016.

Results:

Reported experiences based on ACGME case logs varied widely between fellows with percentage difference of up to 100% in all areas. Similarly, wide variability is present in coding practices of pediatric orthopaedic fellows, who often lack formal education on the topic of appropriate coding/logging. In the survey, hypothetical case scenarios had an absolute difference in recorded codes of up to 13 and a percentage difference of up to 100%.

Conclusions:

ACGME case log data for pediatric orthopaedic fellowships demonstrates wide variability in reported surgical experiences. This variability may be due, in part, to differences in logging practices by individual fellows. This observation makes meaningful interpretation of national data on surgical volume challenging. Proposed surgical experience minimums should be interpreted in light of these data, and may not be advisable unless accompanied by standardized and specific guidelines for case log entry. Efforts to optimize training in the post 80-hour era will require accurate data to serve as a starting point for future educational efforts.

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