Pick of the Week


Week of February 1, 2014

Data, you sexy thing!  

Measuring health care: Need to know The Economist February 1, 2014

Data crunching may be the most promising medical intervention for improving outcomes and controlling costs, according to a February 1 article in the Economist

Troves of patient and provider data are used identify factors tied most closely to outcomes that patients, policymakers and the healthcare industry should care deeply about.  These records – which come in many forms, represent different time periods, and have vastly different analytical potential – are among the least utilized tool in the universal quest for the right care, at the right cost, for the right patient, at the right time, and by the right provider.  

Though data analysis is not the sexy new high tech surgical laser or imaging machine a hospital may wish to use in advertising materials, it can certainly capture your attention if, for example, erectile dysfunction is among outcomes you’d like to avoid.  The authors point to a German study showing variability in severe dysfunction among post-prostate removal patients that ranged by clinics from an average of 76% to 17%.  That’s a number that everyone should care about. 

Like all tools, these data have their limitations – most notably the inability to ascertain causal relationships.  Nonetheless, the patterns and trajectories found within our national cache of data and within systems’ private data holdings may very well beat the latest and greatest purchases and procedures.  

Read more from the Pick of the Week. http://www.economist.com/news/international/21595474-improve-health-care-governments-need-use-right-data-need-know


Week of October 27, 2013

Spinal Fusions Serve as Case Study for Debate over when Certain Surgeries are Necessary

The Washington Post, Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This article reviews the growing frequency with which high-priced spinal fusion surgeries are performed, and questions the underlying medical necessity.  Evidence from the Cochrane Collaboration and other groups put spinal fusion surgery as a final option once all other -- and  notably less invasive approaches -- have been exhausted. Yet these surgeries, which remove discs and fuse spinal vertebrae together to relieve back and nerve pain, are performed at an alarmingly increasing rate.  Is this because there is a real need, or is this because the payoff in volume is so attractive?  Read to find out how evidence is used or dismissed in this and similar cases. 

Full Article.


Archived Picks of the Week.

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