Dartmouth Atlas Finds Vast Regional Differences in Medicare-Backed Elective Surgery Rates

John Commins, February 24, 2011

Whether or not Medicare patients undergo elective surgery depends on where they live and their doctors, according to a report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project and the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making.

Researchers found remarkably wide regional variations in elective surgery for Medicare patients even though they had similar conditions.

For example:
  •   Men over 65 with early-stage prostate cancer in San Luis Obispo, CA are 12 times more likely to have surgery to remove their prostate than those in Albany, GA.
  • Medicare patients with heart disease in Elyria, OH were 10 times more likely to have a procedure such as angioplasty or stents than those in Honolulu, HI.
  •  Women over 65 living in Victoria, TX were seven times more likely to undergo mastectomy for early-stage breast cancer than women in Muncie, ID.

“These striking variations are the by-product of a doctor-centric medical delivery system. In highlighting the variation from community to community for elective procedures, we hope to shine a light on the fact that patients’ preferences are not always taken into account when medical decisions are made,” says Shannon Brownlee, lead report author and instructor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

Facebook icon
LinkedIn icon
Twitter icon