Shop for your surgeon using formerly confidential data

A surgeon (L) and an assistant surgeon perform an open-heart surgery in a cardiac surgery unit at the CHU Angers teaching hospital in Angers, western France, on October 24, 2013. The Angers hospital employs 6,000 people including 980 doctors. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD (Photo credit should read JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images)

Story highlights

  • Two new tools showcase previously classified patient outcomes from thousands of U.S. surgeons
  • Patients can search by surgeon name, hospital and location
  • The data is mined from past Medicare records

(CNN)Two new, unrelated search tools opened to the public Tuesday promise to make elective surgery planning easier and more transparent. They're delivering on that promise by arming patients with information about thousands of surgeons' previous patient outcomes.

The sites -- SurgeonRatings.org and Surgeon Scorecard -- organize Medicare fee-for-service data into searchable databases. The data was extremely difficult to obtain, said Robert Krughoff, founder and president of Center for the Study of Services/Consumers' Checkbook, the organization behind SurgeonRatings.org.
"We sued the federal government for access to this data back in 2006," said Krughoff, "But it wasn't until October of last year that the federal government finally released this data in full."
    SurgeonRatings.org rates more than 50,000 surgeons in the United States using Medicare data from 2009 to 2012. To use the tool, patients enter a ZIP Code and then select a desired surgical procedure from a list of 14 operations, which includes gastric surgery, hip or knee replacement surgery, prostate removal surgery and spinal cord exploration.
    The team behind SurgeonRatings.org worked with doctors and statistician consultants to carefully judge surgeons based on several complex criteria including death rates, adjustm