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The Dartmouth Atlas Debate: Careful Consideration Needed

The worst-kept secret in journalism circles recently was that the New York Times was planning an article critical of the Dartmouth Atlas. Among the main points in the article:

• “The mistaken belief that the Dartmouth research proves that cheaper care is better care is widespread.”

• “The atlas’s hospital rankings do not take into account care that prolongs or improves lives.”

• “Even Dartmouth’s claims about which hospitals and regions are cheapest may be suspect.”

• “Failing to make basic data adjustments undermines the geographic variations the atlas purports to show.”

The Times has also published the correspondence it had with the Dartmouth team about methodology questions.

The Dartmouth team challenges each of these criticisms. The team says the Times made at least five factual errors and several misrepresentations. They write:

“What is truly unfortunate is that the Times missed an opportunity to help educate the American public about what our research actually shows — or about the breadth of agreement about what our findings mean for health care reform.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Regional Variations in Total Knee Replacement Surgery

It has been proven than there is tremendous variation in the practice of medicine across the United States. The Dartmouth data (Wennberg et al) has documented the differences in how medical resources are used and how different physicians practice medicine, depending upon where they live. The Dartmouth studies are mainly focused on cost and outcomes and make the case that improved quality is often inversely related to the cost of care. More (expensive) care is not necessarily better care.

Now that I am recovering from a total joint replacement, I am amazed to see the differences in how physicians, doing the same surgery, treat the patient. Total knee replacement (TKA) is one of the most common orthopedic procedures done today. Despite this, the patient cannot expect the same post op care. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Does Poverty Help To Explain Medical Practice Variation?

MilwaukeeIs poverty the major factor underlying geographic variation in health care? It assuredly is. There is abundant evidence that poverty is strongly associated with poor health status, greater per capita health care spending, more hospital readmissions and poorer outcomes. It is the single strongest factor in variation in health care and the single greatest contributor to “excess” health care spending. It should be the focus of health care reform but, sadly, many provisions in the current bills will worsen the problem.

Much of this is discussed elsewhere on this blog and in our recent “Report to The President and The Congress.” In this posting, I would simply like to tap into your common sense. We all know that poverty is geographic. There are wealthy neighborhoods and impoverished ones, rich states and poor ones, developed countries and developing ones.  Sometimes poverty is regional, as in Mississippi, but sometimes it’s confined to “poverty ghettos,”  as in the South Bronx. 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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