Martinez says the growth in the use of telemedicine, more sophisticated databases, and the Internet is creating and spreading knowledge at a dizzying rate. "The problem is being overloaded with information so we have to maintain our focus," he says. "What is best for the patient and what is the best cost-effective way to do that?"
Haide said researchers looking to cut costs must not look only at survival rates alone to make sure the more expensive care isn't better in some way. He said higher-cost regions may have patients with less pain and fewer disabilities after recovery.
"If surgeons are fixing tibia fractures in the West in a way that's more expensive but makes patients more comfortable, that would not be a trivial finding," Haider said. "We really need to drill down and figure out what parts of care improve outcomes and what parts drive up costs without improving any outcomes or aspects of care important to patients."
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Science, the American College of Surgeons and the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions.