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What big data can't tell us about healthcare

The New Yorker, April 24, 2014

In the march toward greater price transparency in health care, the data release represents a milestone, though perhaps one more symbolic than substantive. For those who believe that greater price transparency is the key to reining in exorbitant costs and helping patients to become more savvy "health-care consumers," the data release is a huge victory. Indeed, the early coverage, invariably emphasizing the high spending of a small group of physicians, had a tone of triumph. According to the Times, two per cent of physicians accounted for nearly a quarter of Medicare spending. Ophthalmologists led this small group of high billers, with a large portion of their payments apparently connected to the use of an expensive treatment for macular degeneration.