Dartmouth Atlas Finds Vast Regional Differences in Medicare-Backed Elective Surgery Rates

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , February 24, 2011

Whether or not Medicare patients undergo elective surgery depends on where they live and their doctors, according to a report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project and the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making.

Researchers found remarkably wide regional variations in elective surgery for Medicare patients even though they had similar conditions.

For example:
  •   Men over 65 with early-stage prostate cancer in San Luis Obispo, CA are 12 times more likely to have surgery to remove their prostate than those in Albany, GA.
  • Medicare patients with heart disease in Elyria, OH were 10 times more likely to have a procedure such as angioplasty or stents than those in Honolulu, HI.
  •  Women over 65 living in Victoria, TX were seven times more likely to undergo mastectomy for early-stage breast cancer than women in Muncie, ID.

“These striking variations are the by-product of a doctor-centric medical delivery system. In highlighting the variation from community to community for elective procedures, we hope to shine a light on the fact that patients’ preferences are not always taken into account when medical decisions are made,” says Shannon Brownlee, lead report author and instructor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

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1 comments on "Elective Surgery Rates Vary Greatly by Region"

Stefani (2/27/2011 at 5:56 PM)
This is not new news! Jack Wennberg MD began his work by demonstrating that VT children underwent tonsillectomies in the 1970s based on where they lived and the training of the local surgeons....not because of need. Nothing has changed has it?




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