Studies Explore Geography's Influence On Medical Practice, Spending

Reuters: "Doctors in some parts of the United States are more likely to tell Medicare patients they are sick than in other parts, researchers said on Wednesday in a finding that could explain regional differences in health spending. The study is the latest from the Dartmouth Atlas Project, which [has uncovered] wide differences in spending by region, a finding that became a touchstone in the debate about the need for healthcare reform in the United States." The study showed that, while all people received more diagnoses as they aged, those "who moved from the lowest-intensity to the highest-intensity treatment regions had a far greater increase in the number of diagnoses." The study is in this week's New England Journal of Medicine (Steenhuysen, 5/12).

Modern Healthcare: "Population health plays a larger role in geographic differences in Medicare spending than previously thought, according to a study from George Mason University and the Urban Institute. … Researchers estimated the differences in Medicare spending between high- and low-cost geographic areas and the role of beneficiaries' health to explain variations, using data on Medicare spending by 6,725 elderly Medicare patients collected by the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey from 2000-02." An author of the study said the result shows that differences in spending from one area to another are not necessarily signs of inefficient health care systems. This study is also in NEJM (Lubell, 5/13).

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