Health Care Official Urges Use of Evidence-Based Medicine

Article excerpt

Although insurers have worked in recent years to negotiate lower medical prices in return for providing patient volume to providers, that emphasis needs to change to improve the health care system, according to Jim Dempster, executive director of Physicians Direct Network.
Instead, he said officials must focus on ensuring a consistent quality of care from hospital to hospital and state to state.
"If you're getting poor quality health care, it doesn't matter what the price is, it's not worth it," he said.
Addressing the members of the Oklahoma City Association of Health Insurance Underwriters on Tuesday, Dempster said an inconsistent level of care is plaguing the nation's health care system and the insurance industry must begin to focus on the problem.
He noted that a 2001 study by the Institute of Medicine showed that there are 98,000 preventable deaths at hospitals each year. The ripple effect of those errors drains $17 billion to $21 billion each year from the economy, according to some estimates.
In addition, he said the Juran Institute estimates that poor quality health care costs employers $1,700 to $2,000 per covered employee each year.
"There are serious problems here and we don't address them as an industry," Dempster said.
He argued that the use of "evidence-based medicine" could reduce that problem. He defined "evidence-based medicine" as an approach that combines physician experience, patient needs and expectations, and the latest in scientific research.
Dempster said many procedures in medicine have been thoroughly screened and proven effective in double blind clinical studies, but doctors have been slow to adapt to those advancements for a variety of reasons.
From region to region, there are wide variances in how officials respond to the same medical problems, he said. For example, Dempster said certain conditions are 60 percent more likely to result in hospitalization in Boston than they are in New Haven, Conn., even though both towns are of similar size. If 10 cities the size of Boston were to duplicate New Haven's approach, it could save $500 million per year in health care costs, he said. …