July 15—Treatment costs among Medicare beneficiaries with different medical conditions vary significantly across geographic areas, and there is little consistency in this variation, according to a study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) published online in Health Services Research.

The study indicates that patterns of geographic variation “are far more complex than generally thought.” Researchers examined 10 specific medical conditions, including heart disease and bacterial lung infections, and found that episode treatment costs varied substantially across communities, but patterns of cost variation were not consistent across conditions.

According to the study, population health was a larger contributing factor to overall costs in a community than the quality and efficiency of care. Researchers suggest that an implication of the results is that payment reform initiatives—such as patient-centered medical homes and accountable care organizations—may need flexible approaches to address local conditions and treatment patterns.

Publication Date: Monday, July 15, 2013