As the debate over how best to reform our wasteful health-care system continues, there is one measure we can implement immediately to improve quality and rein in runaway costs—the public release of data from the Medicare program, as required by a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The need for change is striking. Research by the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care documents that, on average, more than 40% of Americans are not receiving the care most likely to help them and that, even when they do, it is often provided wastefully. Rates of preventable diseases, hospitalizations, complications and readmissions vary greatly among health-care providers. Too often, unnecessary, redundant and needlessly expensive tests and treatments are prescribed.
Controlling costs without compromising quality will require multiple scalpels rather than one blunt instrument. Public reporting of performance measures could provide those scalpels by allowing the public to compare doctors and hospitals based on cost and clinical results.
(photo credit: Fernando Stankuns)