Study Finds Regional Variation in Medicare Elective Surgery Rates
Where patients live and which physicians they see can play a major role in whether Medicare beneficiaries undergo elective surgery, according to a new study from the Dartmouth Atlas Project and the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, HealthLeaders Media reports (Commins, HealthLeaders Media, 2/24).
For the study, researchers reviewed Medicare data from 2003 through 2007 on rates of elective or preference-sensitive procedures such as:
- Back surgery;
- Carotid artery surgery;
- Coronary artery bypass surgery;
- Knee and hip joint replacement;
- Mastectomy for breast cancer;
- Prostate cancer screening; and
- Radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer.
According to the study, regional and cultural differences can influence physician preferences, which could affect decision-making on elective procedures (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 2/24).
For example, the study found that:
- Male Medicare beneficiariesÂ living in San Luis Obispo are the most likely in the nation to have their prostates removed; and
- Medicare beneficiaries living in San Jose are among the least likely in the U.S. to receive carotid artery surgery (Jewett, California Watch, 2/28).
According to the study authors, there are significant differences in physicians' opinions about the value of various procedures.
Shannon Brownlee of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice said the variation in procedure rates suggests that "patients' preferences are not always taken into account when medical decisions are made" (Reuters, 2/24).
Researchers said they hope the study will motivate patients to learn more about their medical conditions and discuss treatment options with their physicians (Olson, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.