Focusing on Health Care Quality

By: Brian Klepper

 At its core, America’s health care value crisis is really rooted in our system-wide failure to focus on managing quality. Health outcomes for specific conditions and procedures vary wildly across providers, health plans and markets. A highly regarded 2008 PricewaterhouseCoopers study estimated that more than half of US health care spending provides no value.

 

Our health system optimizes revenues, in part, through excessive care, meaning that many clinicians largely disregard quality, ignoring whether treatment pathways are right or founded in evidence. Compare US care patterns to those in other developed countries or to top-performing domestic programs, and over-treatment is obvious. Putting medical errors aside, vast quantities of care are intentionally unnecessary, a problem so pervasive that, compared to other developed nations, we’ve come to consider our inflated procedural statistics normal. Half or more of all orthopedic surgeries are inappropriate. We administer cancer patients with chemotherapy regimens that often lack proven efficacy. (Here’s a relevant quote from the linked article in JAMA Internal Medicine: “Our results show that most cancer drug approvals [by the FDA] have not been shown to, or do not, improve clinically relevant endpoints.”) Even after an abundance of evidence showing that coronary stents provide no significant benefit in stable heart patients, we implant thousands every day. And on and on. 

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