New study shows quality of pediatric care varies by geography
According to the most recent project conducted by Dartmouth Atlas, medical care services in certain areas of the country provided to infants and children are inconsistent. This could potentially be one of the reasons behind medical errors.The study
Dartmouth Atlas is part of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, an organization within Dartmouth College that focuses on improving healthcare. Throughout the past 20 years, the Dartmouth Atlas has conducted projects relating to areas in the healthcare field.
The latest Dartmouth Atlas Project involves the examination of children's healthcare, specifically in the northern New England area.
From 2007-2010, researchers of the Project looked at the medical care of roughly 690,000 children (those 18 years of age and younger) in areas within the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
Researchers looked at various healthcare fields including doctor services, hospital care, pharmaceutical services, and diagnostic imaging, among others. The results showed that the tests and procedures varied widely.
For instance, almost 50 percent more children in various parts of the state of New Hampshire had their tonsils removed than children living in certain areas in the state of Maine. The report also showed a wide discrepancy in children who received CT scans in these same areas.
Researchers indicate that, although the study was conducted on a small subset of the nation, the discrepancy is cause for alarm. There is likely inconsistent medical care provided to children all across the U.S., they argue.
The study points out several potential reasons:Hospital practices
According to the lead researcher of the study, one reason for the variation could be attributed to hospital practices. Some healthcare entities may be more lax on disregarding important procedures than others. Others may simply lack the resources. For instance, the report indicated that higher hospitalization rates of children directly correlated to the availability of hospital beds.Doctor practices
The discrepancy could also be attributed to differences in the ways physicians in certain areas practice medicine. Doctors who are overworked and have limited time with patients might be more likely to misdiagnose, inadvertently miss potential medical issues, or commit medical negligence.
Researchers indicate that more transparency in the quality of physician care is needed to better understand and improve doctor performance.Dire conclusions
Essentially, the study results proved that the care children receive-and the risk of medical or hospital errors-is likely dependant on where they live.
"In healthcare, geography is destiny," they say.
A new Dartmouth Atlas study investigating this very issue in other parts of the country to solidify this theory may be conducted in the future.