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Healthcare Business Solutions
November 11th, 2015

From Dave’s Desk: Reducing clinical variation

dave reed littleAs I discussed in my Reflections on AHRMM post, there are five recurring themes from the past several months. One of those themes is reducing clinical variation.

Think for a second about how many physicians practice throughout the world. They all went to medical school and have been trained to practice medicine at the highest standard, but there are some differences in how they learned to perform procedures. Their procedures vary somewhat, depending on which medical school they attended, which hospitals they worked at, and which physicians they trained under.

Similarly, there is a lot of variation in how hospitals approach their care—the systems they use and devices they buy. The fact of the matter is that there are a lot of “right” ways to treat patients.

For example, physician A uses a $150 device to perform a procedure in 45 minutes, and physician B uses a $50 device to perform the same procedure but takes two hours on average. What’s the total cost of that care? How can physician A and B learn from each other and bridge the gap so that the hospital can purchase devices and plan for more standardized care? Differences in clinical procedures result in a lot of variation across the healthcare system. And from a business standpoint, we know that redundancies and costs hide within variation.

So how can we reduce variation in an appropriate and effective way? We begin by putting data into the hands of physicians. We all know data is king within healthcare. Clinicians are always learning from each other, recording and sharing that knowledge with others can help us create best practices and help reduce clinical variation.

But where we can get this data? As electronic medical records start to become more interconnected with insurers and other systems, the collected data will start to play a big role. And a lot of parties in healthcare—physicians, nurses, hospital administrators, and device companies like Cook—can learn from it.

You may be asking yourself why this is important. As patients become more engaged with their healthcare, they seek out information like the prices of procedures, different procedural options, even the ratings of physicians. This level of transparency makes it all the more important to cut costs and standardize the quality of care. We have an excellent opportunity to reduce the overall cost within healthcare by reducing clinical variation. We are just starting to see some of the numbers, but over time it will become more evident how important reducing clinical variation is.

Here at Cook, we have worked with individual physicians to help solve clinical problems for over 50 years. Now, as data is uncovered, some of those physician’s choices may change because there is evidence that, if you perform a procedure in a particular way, you’ll get a better outcome. As more physicians start to understand the impact of using specific drugs, devices, therapies, and predetermined treatments, decisions will come from a group of physicians. Cook is working hard to ensure that we can be a valuable participant in conversations about clinical variation.

Let me know your thoughts on Twitter and LinkedIn about this topic and what you’d like to hear about next.

Check out the past posts from my desk here. To read other post from the reoccurring themes check out the preventive care post and the clinical alignment post.


Reed_Dave_5x7_7238David Reed is currently Vice President of Operations, Vice President of Healthcare Business Solutions for Cook Medical Incorporated. With over 30 years of life science industry expertise Dave holds an MBA from California Miramar University and serves as a member of the Indiana University Kelly School of Business Supply Chain and Global Management Academy Advisory Board.