Reassessing Quality Assessment — The Flawed System for Fixing a Flawed System

“Berwick recognized that blaming workers for factors beyond their control quashes goodwill and encourages cheating. This insight accords with a foundational principle of the QI [quality-improvement] movement: most quality lapses reflect a faulty system rather than faulty people. To improve quality, we must fix the system. Some 30 years later, however, the fix is itself a massive system. As reimbursement models shift toward value-based payment, QI is no longer just about being better, but about documenting improvement to maximize payment. An entire industry has arisen to support the optimization and demonstration of performance. Though I could find no authoritative estimate … Read More

Don’t Look Up? Medicare Advantage’s Trajectory And the Future of Medicare

“short of comprehensive reform by Congress, CMS may find it challenging to build value in Medicare over this decade if TM’s [traditional Medicare] scaffolding erodes [due to the rise of Medicare Advantage (MA)]. Much can be done under CMS’s existing authorities to promote efficiency and equity, but, under Medicare’s present configuration, that requires preservation of TM. Without substantive legislative reform on the horizon, regulatory policy will thus need to keep the long view in mind, lest several years of inertia set in motion an unalterable course to a lesser outcome. [..] MA has been clearly successful in managing utilization more … Read More

Where Americans Die – Is There Really “No Place Like Home”?

“In 2017, a total of 31% of Americans died at home, making it the most common site of death for the first time in decades. In the United States, we tend to believe that someone who died “peacefully at home, surrounded by family” (as the obituaries put it) has had a good death. Yet reality frequently diverges from this scenario. Unprepared family caregivers are routinely tasked with managing distressing symptoms (including pain, agitation, and dyspnea), administering medications, and providing intimate personal care (including bathing and toileting assistance) to bedbound patients. In other care settings, these tasks are performed by trained … Read More

Comparing Health Outcomes of Privileged US Citizens With Those of Average Residents of Other Developed Countries

“[Introduction] [..] Privileged US citizens—including thought and physician leaders—may tolerate this underperformance as applying to “others,” dismissing comparisons as mean values that do not reflect the quality of their own personal care. Privileged US citizens believe that their social connections and financial resources allow them to choose the best physicians and hospitals for their own care, thereby ensuring excellent health outcomes. One study showed that the wealthiest quintile receive 43% more health care than the poorest quintile and 23% more than middle-income US citizens. Privileged US citizens may believe that their resources ensure that they receive the world’s best health … Read More

Patient Adherence to Screening for Lung Cancer in the US: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

“[Methods] [..] We included studies that reported LCS [lung cancer screening] adherence rates in the US and/or determinants of LCS adherence. We considered prospective or retrospective studies that screened adult patients at any risk level of developing cancer who opted to initiate LCS and continued to undergo additional screening after the first LDCT (low-dose computed tomography). [Results] [..] Fifteen studies (19 publications) involving a total of 16 863 individuals were included in this systematic review. [..] 12 studies (80%) did not have a follow-up time that was long enough to adequately assess periodic adherence beyond 1 year. All of the studies … Read More

The Case For Mathematical Optimization In Health Care: Building A Strong Foundation For Artificial Intelligence

“Enthusiasm for the potential impact of AI [artificial intelligence] on hospital operations is often based on its impact in other industries. However, non-health care companies invest in AI after having digitized and optimized their operations with a variety of older mathematical methods. In contrast, hospitals may invest in AI while still scheduling patient appointments using fax machines and allocating resources based largely on anecdotal experience. [..] For decades before the advent of modern AI, the operational management of capital, labor, and resources of large manufacturing, retail, airline, and most other large-scale industries were being designed and refined with rigorous methods … Read More

Evaluation of Time to Benefit of Statins for the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Events in Adults Aged 50 to 75 Years: A Meta-analysis

“[Introduction] The American Heart Association (AHA), American College of Cardiology (ACC), and the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) all recommend hydroxymethyl glutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins) for primary prevention of cardiovascular events in adults aged 40 to 75 years who have an elevated risk (most often defined as ≥7.5% risk of major adverse cardiovascular event [MACE] within 10 years). [..] Although the benefits of statins to decrease cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction and stroke have been well documented for adults younger than 75 years, when these benefits occur is unclear. In contrast, the burdens of statins appear … Read More

Use of Skin Cancer Procedures, Medicare Reimbursement, and Overall Expenditures, 2012-2017

“Skin cancers represent the most common malignant neoplasms in the United States and account for more than $8 billion of health expenditure annually. Because the US population is aging, the incidence of skin cancers is increasing. In addition to topical chemotherapy, procedural treatments for skin cancers include Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS), simple surgical excision, and shave excision as well as destructive modalities including laser surgery, electrosurgery, and cryosurgery. [Results] From 2012 to 2017, MMS services had the highest mean payment ($378.71; range, $41.24-$466.93) and shave excisions had the lowest ($70.99; range, $15.58-$135.24). During this period, payment rates declined for each … Read More

Using DALYs to Investigate Innovations in Care Delivery

On October 27th, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a draft recommendation to extend colorectal cancer screening to individuals 45-49 years of age (Grade B recommendation). Assuming the public comment period does not uncover any surprises, the recommendation will be finalized by the end of the year. The recommendation includes the group’s modeling of benefits and harms with the proposed screening strategy. Compared to our current screening recommendations (screening individuals 50-75 years of age), the new recommendation will add 22-27 additional life-years at a cost of 0.2-2 additional gastrointestinal and cardiovascular complications per 1000 individuals screened. Given … Read More

Delays to Low-Risk Thyroid Cancer Treatment During COVID-19—Refocusing From What Has Been Lost to What May Be Learned and Gained

“In recent years, a worldwide increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer has been acknowledged and has primarily been attributed to overdiagnosis of small, low-risk papillary thyroid cancers. Observational evidence suggests that active surveillance is a safe and effective management option for carefully selected patients with low-risk papillary thyroid cancers. In light of this contemporary data, guidelines now include more conservative treatment options for patients diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. Ultimately, these guidelines help to avoid potential overtreatment and improve quality-of-life outcomes. Yet despite all this, the willingness to accept less invasive management options, specifically the uptake and acceptability of … Read More