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Latest Posts

Integrating Major Health Systems Could Make Things Worse

Health reformers propose the proliferation of integrated health systems, like the Mayo Clinic or Kaiser Permanente, which, according to the Dartmouth Atlas, lead to better patient care and improved cost control.

To that end, accountable care organizations (ACOs) have been a major part of health reform, changing the way healthcare is delivered. Never mind that patients may not be receptive to the new model, but the creation of these large, integrated physician-hospital entities that progressive policy experts espouse comes with repercussions. Monopoly power.

To prepare for the new model of healthcare delivery, physician practices have been consolidating. In many cases, they’re being bought by hospitals. Last year, I wrote how this is leading to the death of the private practice physician.

But with consolidation comes a tilt in market power. Health insurers, desperate to control costs, are finding it more difficult to negotiate with hospital-physician practices that dominate a market. And patients are going to side with the hospital — insurers that leave out popular doctors and medical facilities face a backlash from patients. Witness the power that Partners Healthcare has in the Boston market that’s mostly driven by patient demand for big-reputation, high-cost Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*

Primary Care: Has It Been “Oversold?”

Citing a new study by the Dartmouth Atlas, the Wall Street Journal’s health blog provocatively asks: “Has the notion of ‘access’ to primary care been oversold?”

The Dartmouth researchers found “that there is no simple relationship between the supply of physicians and access to primary care.” That is, they found that having a greater supply of primary care physicians in a community doesn’t mean that the community necessarily has better access to primary care. Some areas of the country with fewer primary care physicians per population do better on access than other areas with more primary care physicians.

The researchers also report that the numbers of family physicians is more positively associated with better access than the numbers of internists, although they call the association “not strong.” Although both general internists and family physicians are counted as primary care clinicians, “in [regions] with a higher supply of family physicians, beneficiaries were more likely to have at least one annual primary care visit. In [regions] with a higher supply of general internists, fewer beneficiaries had a primary care visit on average.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Healthcare Reform And The Death of Dartmouth Atlas

An important article appeared in the NYT recently, describing a new paper by Peter Bach, which is in today’s NEJM. Peter’s paper (“A Map to Bad Policy“) debunks the Dartmouth Atlas and cautions against its use. As I said in the Wash Post in September, the Dartmouth Atlas is the ”Wrong Map for Health Care Reform.”

More damning even than Peter’s analysis was Elliott Fisher’s reply: “Dr. Fisher agreed that the current Atlas measures should not be used to set hospital payment rates, and that looking at the care of patients at the end of life provides only limited insight into the quality of care provided to those patients. He said he and his colleagues should not be held responsible for the misinterpretation of their data.” Really? It was someone else’s interpretation? OK, Elliott, you’re not responsible. Just stand in the corner. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at PHYSICIANS and HEALTH CARE REFORM Commentaries and Controversies*

Geographic Variation & Healthcare Reform

On the heels of the American Hospital Association’s recent demonstration of gross discrepancies in the Dartmouth group’s data, MedPAC released its December 2009 report to Congress showing the same. Confirming data for 2000 (reported in their 2003 report), MedPAC demonstrated much less variation among states and metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) than described by Dartmouth for states or hospital referral regions (HRRs). Closer scrutiny of MedPAC’s data reveals even more. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at PHYSICIANS and HEALTH CARE REFORM Commentaries and Controversies*

Academic Medical Centers and the Poor: Dartmouth Data Revisited

In a recent Health Affairs blog, Wennberg and Brownlee lamented that op-eds, blogs, letters to members of Congress, broadsides in the press and now a report from the American Hospital Association decry the Dartmouth Atlas as a lot of “malarkey.” Once again they tried to defend their work by proving that race and poverty don’t matter, but they do. Even the “impartial” introduction by the editor of Health Affairs, a member of Dartmouth’s Board, couldn’t save the day: “Wennberg and Brownlee rebut claims that variations among academic medical centers are due to differences in patient income, race, and health status.” Wrong, again! That’s exactly what variations are due to. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at PHYSICIANS and HEALTH CARE REFORM Commentaries and Controversies*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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