Healthcare cost–quality association varies

The association between the quality of healthcare delivered and its costs remains inconsistent, according to research in the January 2013 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The authors, which included researchers from RAND Health, examined 61 studies and "found inconsistent evidence on both the direction and the magnitude of the association between health care costs and quality," Medscape Today reported.

Altogether, the researchers combed every relevant study on the tenuous link between quality and cost published between 1990 and June 2012.

Higher costs were associated with better care in 34 percent of the studies. But in 30 percent of the studies, better care was associated with lower costs. In 36 percent of the studies, there was no causal link at all.

The lack of consistency could prove important to hospitals, as they try to find ways to cut costs and improve quality to avoid lower payments associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"These results are a stark reminder of how little researchers and caregivers know about the optimal allocation of scarce health care resources to achieve the best health outcomes," Alyna T. Chien, M.D., from Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital and Meredith B. Rosenthal of the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote in an editorial that accompanied the study.

To learn more:
- read the Medcscape article
- here's the study abstract
- read the editorial (.pdf)