Study: High price not necessarily indicative of better quality for outpatient services

High prices for outpatient services at physician practices do not necessarily guarantee better care quality and efficiency, suggests a new study published in Health Affairs.

For the study, researchers identified high- or low-price physician practices using commercial claims data. They said they also examined 2013 fee-for-service Medicare CAHPS survey data and linked 2011–12 Medicare claims to compare high- and low-price physician practices in the same geographic area as far as care quality, utilization and spending.

The study, which included a sample of roughly 31,200 survey respondents, found high-price physician practices received an average of $84.45 for an outpatient visit, up 36 percent compared with the average of $62.06 for low-price physician practices.

As far as care quality, patients who visited high-price physician practices reported significantly higher scores on some measures of care coordination and management, according to the study. However, patients who visited high-price physician practices and patients who visited low-price physician practices "did not differ meaningfully" with their overall care ratings, physician ratings and access to care, receipt of preventive services, acute care use or total Medicare spending, the study notes.

"This suggests an overall weak relationship between practice prices and the quality and efficiency of care and calls into question claims that high-price providers deliver substantially higher-value care," the study's authors concluded.

 

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