New Yorker – What Big Data Can’t Tell Us About Healthcare

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The New Yorker magazine featured an outstanding article that Medical Practices and Physicians should consider reading – What Big Data Can’t Tell Us About Healthcare by journalist, Lisa Rosenbaum.

In her excellent and compact analysis, she highlights:

  • The misleading release of Medicare payment data.  The government’s aim to increase healthcare transparency and expose Physician’s behaving badly, is overshadowed by the basic facts that “there is a difference between what Medicare pays and what doctors earn”, and that in many instances, Medicare data is aggregated under one Physician’s name.  In summary, the release of data under the notion of transparency, without providing a thorough context, is misleading, and unfairly runs the risk of vilifying health care providers.
  • As a Medical Billing Company, an additional danger of promoting this narrative, as the New Yorker article highlights’ is that it (1) vastly oversimplifies the notion that economists have “pointed out that other factors, such as high administrative costs and expensive technology, play a greater role in exorbitant costs than overuse” and (2) that there is a material difference between ‘waste’ and ‘spending a lot’.
  • In summary, by the government engaging the “public to use this information to identify waste belies the complexity of physician decision-making”.  For example, Ms. Rosenbaum points out that “what looks wasteful in retrospect may have looked like a live-saving intervention at the time it was made.”

A Superficial Discussion on Medical Billing Costs

A core question to engage the public remains – ‘How much are we willing to save a life?  In this thought-provoking article, this outstanding journalists summarizes by noting that the release of Medicare data without context, not only vilifies Physicians, but reinforces a simplistic storyline – “ It offers heroes and villains, fosters the American ideal of the individual over any collective authority, and, above all, provides the hopeful illusion that we don’t have to confront the hardest questions that doctors and patients grapple with every day. How much are we willing to spend to save a life?

To read the full article on The New Yorker web site, click here.

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