To fix U.S. healthcare, focus on value, experts say

Wed Sep 23, 2009 5:00pm EDT
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The secret to fixing healthcare in the United States is to focus on value, a measure that takes into account both quality and cost, says Dr. Denis Cortese, president of the Mayo Clinic.

The Rochester, Minnesota-based network of clinics is being held up by President Barack Obama and health policy experts as a potential model for healthcare reform, in part because it offers good care at a fair price.

In a commentary on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Cortese says under the U.S. healthcare system the country spends more than any other but the results are uneven at best.

Costs vary drastically, with some centers spending $10,000 on tests to arrive at a diagnosis, while others may spend $15,000 to get to the same result.

To get healthcare moving in the right direction, Cortese argues for using currently available measurements to devise a "value score" that takes into account patient satisfaction, safety, cost and outcomes -- Did the patient get better?

"We could thus create a value score for each medical institution and make it publicly available," Cortese and colleague Jeffrey Korsmo wrote.

Armed with that information, patients could choose hospitals that represent the best value, forcing doctors and caregivers to compete on cost, service, safety and results.

Those with poor track records would lose out among healthcare value shoppers.   Continued...