Author Archive

Would Bill Clinton Have Gotten Two Stents Under ObamaCare?

President Clinton went to his cardiologist at 11:30 a.m. on February 11, 2010 — with several days of chest pressure (angina). He was immediately admitted to a hospital and had two stents placed in his coronary arteries. This restored blood flow to his heart muscle and relieved his chest pain. He left the hospital for home at 6 am the next day, ready to return to his busy lifestyle, including helping the Haitian relief efforts.

The Clinton episode could not have occurred at a more instructive time. That very day, a Wall Street Journal story implied that stents for coronary artery disease may be “unnecessary” or produce results that are no different than management by medication alone, especially in light of the findings of the COURAGE trial study, published in 2007.  Yet many in the Pay-for-Performance movement ignore the most important results of the study: Stents reduce chest pain faster, return people to active, productive lifestyles and overall make people happier. Sadly, ending suffering in patients is not necessarily viewed as a desirable or necessary result when it costs more money and there is no change in the death or heart attack rate. 

Read More » »

Do Patients Receive About Half of Recommended Health Care?

The idea that patients receive about half of recommended care when they see physicians is the conclusion of a RAND Corporation study [gated, but with abstract], spearheaded by Elizabeth McGlynn and colleagues. In fact, not a single outcome of care (like death, infection, ability to walk, relief of pain, return to work) was analyzed. Instead, the study focused only on 439 inputs called “indicators.” These inputs range from the serious and uncontroversial (giving a heart exam to patients with chest pain) to the unobjectionable but possibly trivial (counseling smokers to stop smoking, alcohol abusers to reduce their drinking, and patients with sexually transmitted diseases to practice safe sex).

Four questions immediately jump to mind: (1) What does it mean to say that a procedure is “recommended care?” (2) How do we know that the recommended care is actually good for patients? (3) How do we know whether the patients actually got the care? and (4) Does it make sense to combine the serious with the trivial in making a judgment about the overall quality of the US health care system?

Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Read More » »