Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dave Durenberger on Bone Marrow

Transplants at the U vs. Mayo

Commentary from Dave Durenberger

July 8, 2010

Jeremy Olson, St Paul Pioneer Press, writes about an interesting new chapter in this effort. A 38-year-old leukemia patient is concerned that BCBSMN requires her to go to the Mayo Clinic for a bone marrow transplant rather than to the University of Minnesota where she has received all her care. "It breaks my heart," the patient says. But BCBSMN has the local and national data to show that Mayo's transplant outcomes for cases like hers are better than the UMN. The response from UMN is: "We treat the toughest cases that others won't." This is the kind of response we've become used to hearing when outcomes research is used to inform and to direct pre-paid patient decisions.

It doesn't hold water. When lives are at stake, and reputations are on the line, research data must be as precise as possible. There are those in the medical industry who love bashing insurers and managed care even more than President Obama does. Traditional insurance plans will tell you that hospitals with less than the best outcomes may be motivated by their finances in taking on cases for which success is less likely. I will always recall the two neurosurgeons involved in the development of the cyber-knife telling me about a Miami colleague who bought two and was making a mint off "hopeless" tumor cases.

When the UMN says their cancer transplant cases are "tougher" than Mayo's and therefore their success rate is lower, they need to be asked first to prove it, and then whether admission decisions can be affected by reimbursement which is unrelated to outcomes. What I would love to know is, were I this patient, is which cancer centers, or which oncological surgeons, in this country have even better results for people like me than Mayo. Maybe one is right here in Minneapolis?


I've posted on matters like these before. As evidence begins to accumulate, patients, doctors, and even insurance companies can start to make more rational decisions about where to go for treatment that depends on the success rates of hospitals. Direct comparison becomes possible, not just the anecdotal: "Well, it's a great research hospital."

Take diabetes care for example. Who does it best? Evidence is available.


Consumer Tools On the Web
Diabetic Health Care Success Variability in Minnesota


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