Dartmouth research expands with new study of variations in healthcare

The Dartmouth Atlas Project announced last week that it will develop a regional study of variations in pediatric healthcare and regional variations in healthcare among commercially insured adults.

The two-year project, funded by the Charles H. Hood Foundation, is supported by Blue Health Intelligence, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association that provides aggregated de-identified claims data on more than 110 million members nationwide.

“At a time when public reporting of variation in the care of Medicare beneficiaries have motivated reform in clinical practice and healthcare policy across the country, there remain unrealized opportunities for understanding and improving healthcare for children,” said David C. Goodman, MD, co-principal investigator of the Dartmouth Atlas Project and director of the Center for Health Policy Research at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

For the pediatric project, researchers from Dartmouth will investigate geographic variation in healthcare in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont using data from both commercial insurers and each state’s Medicaid program. As with their earlier work, the researchers intend to create the Dartmouth Atlas of Children’s Health Care in Northern New England that will detail rates of utilization and spending for primary care, inpatient care, emergency room care, advanced imaging, surgical care and medication use across regions and hospitals.

According to a statement detailing the new research project, “Previous Dartmouth research of healthcare variation in adults has shown that most differences cannot be explained by patient needs or preferences, but by variation in how physicians and hospitals practice medicine. This new project on variation in the care of infants and children will build upon this research to see if pediatric care differs from what is known about adult care.”

In addition to the pediatric study, Dartmouth researchers will also work with Blue Health Intelligence to release a study later this year of geographic variation in joint arthroplasty and knee arthroscopy in the commercially insured population over time.

The Atlas Project previously studied commercially insured populations in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. It will use this new data to compare findings with its previous analysis of the Medicare population.

The Dartmouth Atlas Project is a located at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. Major funding for its work is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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