Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, Ophthalmology / 18.10.2019 Interview with: Jonathon Ng MD Clinical Senior Lecturer Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Population and Public Health University of Western Australia What is the background for this study? Response: This study was a part of a programme of research into cataract surgery and motor vehicle accidents spanning a decade. The older population is the fastest growing group of drivers and continuing to drive is an important part of maintaining independence. However, ageing also leads to a variety of conditions, including eye diseases such as cataract which affects vision and driving ability. We conducted this current study to try and better understand driving performance in people having cataract surgery. This was prompted by our earlier work 10 years ago that found decreased motor vehicle accidents after cataract surgery in a study of 28,000 people using linked health and administrative data.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, NYU, Ophthalmology, Pharmaceutical Companies / 02.08.2019 Interview with: Cassandra L. Thiel, PhD Assistant Professor NYU Langone School of Medicine Department of Population Health NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service NYU Tandon School of Engineering What is the background for this study? Response: Most healthcare professionals and researchers are aware that the healthcare sector makes up about 18% of the US Gross Domestic Product. What many do not realize is that all of that economic activity results in sizable resource consumption and environmental emissions. The healthcare industry is responsible for 10% of the US’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 9% of air pollutants.1 Sustainability in healthcare is a developing field of research and practice, and my lab offers data and information by quantifying resource use and emissions of healthcare delivery. We started looking at cataract surgery a few years ago, in part because operating rooms (ORs) typically represent the largest portion of spending and garbage generation in a hospital.2,3 Cataract surgeries are interesting because they are one of the most common surgeries performed in the world. In the US, we spend $6.8 billion on them each year. Any changes we can make to individual cases would have much larger, global impacts. I studied cataract surgeries at a world-renowned, high-volume eye surgery center in India and helped validate that clinical care could be designed in a way that was effective, cost-efficient, and resource efficient. Compared to the same procedure in the UK, this surgery center generates only 5% of the carbon emissions (with the same outcomes).2 This site’s standard policy is to multi-dose their eye drops, or use them on multiple patients until the bottle was empty. As such, the site generated very little waste. Returning to the US, I observed cataract cases and heard the complaints of OR staff that they had to throw out many partially used or unused pharmaceuticals. In reviewing the literature, we could not find a study that quantified how much we were throwing away and what it cost us to do so. We, therefore, set up a study to look at this particular issue. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, Ophthalmology, Surgical Research, UCSF / 23.01.2018 Interview with: Catherine L. Chen, MD, MPH Assistant Professor UCSF Department of Anesthesia & Perioperative Care What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Routine preoperative medical testing (such as common laboratory tests looking at a patient's blood cell counts and kidney function, or cardiac tests like an EKG) are not recommended in patients undergoing cataract surgery, but these tests still occur quite frequently among Medicare cataract surgery patients because these patients tend to be older and sicker than the general population. In the past, researchers have used a 30-day window counting backwards from the date of surgery to determine whether a given test should be categorized as a routine preoperative test. However, we know that testing often takes place outside this window and therefore, the frequency and cost of routine preoperative medical testing has generally been underreported. In our study, we used a new method to figure out how to determine the start of the routine preoperative testing period. In cataract patients, ocular biometry is a diagnostic test that is performed in anticipation of cataract surgery, and this test is only performed in cataract patients who will be having cataract surgery in the near future. For each patient, we calculated the elapsed time between the ocular biometry and cataract surgery dates to get a better idea of when to start looking for unnecessary routine preoperative testing. Our goal was to identify all the routine preoperative medical testing that occurs once the decision has been made to operate and better estimate the cost to Medicare of this unnecessary testing. In a previous study that we published in the New England Journal of Medicine, we reported a significant spike in the rate of routine preoperative medical testing that occurs in the 30 days before surgery compared to the baseline rate of testing. In our current study, we discovered that there is a second spike in testing that occurs in the 30 days after ocular biometry. In fact, even if you exclude the testing that takes place during the 30 days before surgery, there is still a 41% increase in testing rates during the interval between ocular biometry and cataract surgery over the baseline rate of testing. In addition, we found that the cost of routine preoperative testing was 47% higher when looking at the entire biometry to surgery timeframe compared to testing that occurs just in the 30 days before surgery. We estimate that the cost to Medicare of all of this unnecessary testing approaches $45.4 million annually. (more…)