High healthcare spenders don't deliver more unnecessary care

New research delivers another blow to the common assumption that regions of the United States that spend more on healthcare provide more unnecessary care, according to UCSF Today. The study published in the March issue of Medical Care also finds that low-spending areas don't necessarily deliver more efficient care to patients.

Despite the increased focus on geographic variations in healthcare, limited available evidence can't confirm or disprove the connection, researchers noted.

"Instead of focusing on geographic variations, more of our efforts should be directed at designing policies that will reduce inappropriate care in general, regardless of region," said lead author Salomeh Keyhani, a San Francisco VA Medical Center physician.

The study supports previous research that encourages the move away from geography-focused data. For instance, a February 2011 report by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) concluded it would be better to focus on how to reduce the costs associated with more expensive-to-treat patients than on specific geographical areas.

However, according to the Medical Care study, the industry still lacks the patient care guidelines researchers need to effectively determine healthcare overuse.

Such deficiencies were highlighted in related research published in the in the Jan. 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. According to the study, to properly design efforts to reduce unnecessary care (and associated costs), healthcare organizations first need to better understand overuse, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

"Guidelines state when you should give a diagnostic test, for example, but they don't say when you shouldn't," Keyhani said in UCSF Today. "And if you have no standards, how can you say when care is inappropriate?"

For more:
- read the Medical Care study abstract
- here's the UCSF Today article
- here's the HSC report