No link found between high-priced care and better quality

Proving once again that money isn't everything, a new analysis finds that higher-priced physician practices don't necessarily provide better care than providers who charge less. 

The Health Affairs analysis found that while patients paying higher prices for their care rated providers better on care coordination and management, other quality measures did not correlate to the cost of care.

The study used commercial claims data to segment practices by the prices they charged, and then used data on Medicare claims to look for trends in care quality and efficiency in similar geographic areas.

The healthcare industry’s continuing trend toward consolidation has generated concern among policymakers as organizations become bigger players in their markets.

Larger organizations have more leverage to demand higher prices in their geographic areas, the study’s authors write. Whether those large organizations provide better care for those higher prices has received relatively little study due to a paucity of available data.

According to the study, healthcare organizations charging higher prices tended to be larger, while small practices tended toward lower-priced care. While the larger, higher-priced providers had better patient ratings in care coordination, management and vaccination rates, the study did not find any significant difference in their number of hospitalizations or overall Medicare spending.

“This suggests that larger provider groups with market power are able to command substantially higher prices without having to offer markedly better care than smaller practices,” the authors conclude.

They believe the problem may stem in part from the degree to which healthcare consumers have been insulated from the actual cost of care, and from the difficulty both payers and patients have in quantifying and comparing quality among different providers.