Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Cancer Research, Chemotherapy, JAMA, Yale / 26.11.2020 Interview with: Lajos Pusztai, M.D, D.Phil. Professor of Medicine Director, Breast Cancer Translational Research Co-Director, Yale Cancer Center Genetics and Genomics Program Yale Cancer Center Yale School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In HER2-positive early stage (stage I-II) breast cancer, several different preoperative (also called neoadjuvant) chemotherapy options exist, each of these is associated with a different rate of complete eradication of cancer from the breast and lymph nodes (called pathologic complete response or pCR). Patients who experience pCR have excellent long term survival. The complete response rates range from 20% to 80%, the rates are higher with regimens that include several different chemotherapy drugs and dual HER2 blockade. Unfortunately, these highly effective multi-drug treatment regimens are also more toxic and more expensive.  We also learned that patients who do not achieve pCR after preoperative therapy, have high rates of recurrence, but the recurrence rate can be improved by administering postoperative adjuvant therapy. These two observations together, (1) different regimens with different toxicities and costs resulting in different pCR rates, and (2) existence of effective postoperative therapies for patients with residual cancer after preoperative therapy, sets the stage for combining various pre- and post-operative treatment strategies. Starting with a shorter, less toxic and less expensive neoadjuvant regimen would allow a substantial minority (20-45%) of patients who archive pCR to be spared of longer and more toxic regimens, whereas those with residual disease could receive the remaining part of the currently most effective regimens post-operatively as adjuvant therapy. In this study we examined the cost effectiveness of different neoadjuvant followed by adjuvant treatment strategies from a healthcare payer perspective. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, Kaiser Permanente, Primary Care / 17.09.2018 Interview with: Richard W. Grant MD MPH Research Scientist III, Kaiser Permanente Division of Resarch Adjunct Associate Professor, UCSF Dept Biostatistics & Epidemiology Director, Kaiser Permanente Delivery Science Fellowship Program Co-Director, NIDDK Diabetes Translational Research post-doctoral training program What is the background for this study? Response: Primary care in the United States is in a state of crisis, with fewer trainees entering the field and more current primary care doctors leaving due to professional burnout. Changes in the practice of primary care, including the many burdens related to EHR documentation, has been identified as a major source of physician burnout. There are ongoing efforts to reduce physician burnout by improving the work environment. One innovation has been the use of medical scribes in the exam room who are trained to enter narrative notes based on the patient-provider interview. To date, there have only been a handful of small studies that have looked at the impact of medical scribes on the provider’s experience of providing care. (more…)
Author Interviews, Heart Disease, JAMA / 28.06.2018 Interview with: Dan Blumenthal, MD, MBA Assistant in Medicine, Division of Cardiology Massachusetts General Hospital Instructor in Medicine Harvard Medical School What is the background for this study? Response: Despite dramatic advances in the treatment of cardiovascular disease (CVD) over the past half-century, CVD remains a leading cause of death and health care spending in the United States (US) and worldwide. More than 2000 Americans die of CVD each day, and more than $200 billion dollars is spent on the treatment of CVD each year in the US By 2030, over 40% of the US population is projected to have some form of CVD, at a cost of $1 trillion to the US economy. The tremendous clinical and financial burden of cardiovascular illness has helped motivated policymakers to develop policy tools that have the potential to improve health care quality and curb spending.  Alternative payment models, and specifically bundled payments—lump sum payment for defined episodes of care which typically subsume an inpatient hospitalization and some amount of post-acute care—represent a promising tool for slowing health care spending and improving health care value. Despite broad interest in implementing bundled payments to achieve these aims, our collective understanding of the effects of bundled payments on .cardiovascular disease care quality and spending, and the factors associated with success under this payment model, are limited. Medicare’s Bundled Payments of Care Improvement (BPCI) is an ongoing voluntary, national pilot program evaluating bundled payments for 48 common conditions and procedures, including several common cardiovascular conditions and interventions.   In this study, we compared hospitals that voluntarily signed up for the four most commonly subscribed cardiac bundles—those for acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, and percutaneous coronary intervention—with surrounding control hospitals in order to gain some insight into the factors driving participation, and to assess whether the hospitals participating in these bundles were broadly representative of a diverse set of U.S. acute care hospitals.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, University of Pennsylvania / 04.04.2018 Interview with: Eric T. Roberts, PhD Assistant Professor of Health Policy & Management University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Pittsburgh, PA 15261 What is the background for this study? Response: There is considerable interest nationally in reforming how we pay health care providers and in shifting from fee-for-service to value-based payment models, in which providers assume some economic risk for their patients’ costs and outcomes of care.  One new payment model that has garnered interest among policy makers is the global budget, which in 2010 Maryland adopted for rural hospitals.  Maryland subsequently expanded the model to urban and suburban hospitals in 2014.  Maryland’s global budget model encompasses payments to hospitals for inpatient, emergency department, and hospital outpatient department services from all payers, including Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurers.  The intuition behind this payment model is that, when a hospital is given a fixed budget to care for the entire population it serves, it will have an incentive to avoid costly admissions and focus on treating patients outside of the hospital (e.g., in primary care practices).  Until recently, there has been little rigorous evidence about whether Maryland’s hospital global budget model met policy makers’ goals of reducing hospital use and strengthening primary care. Our Health Affairs study evaluated how the 2010 implementation of global budgets in rural Maryland hospitals affected hospital utilization among Medicare beneficiaries.  This study complements work our research group published in JAMA Internal Medicine (January 16, 2018) that examined the impact of the statewide program on hospital and primary care use, also among Medicare beneficiaries. (more…)
Author Interviews, CDC, Cost of Health Care, Geriatrics / 04.04.2018 Interview with: Curtis Florence, PhD Division of Analysis, Research and Practice Integration CDC’s Injury Center What is the background for this study? Response: The estimates in this study provide a more robust indicator of the economic impact falls have on the U.S. economy.  Previous studies focused on Medicare spending. This study includes Medicare, Medicaid and out-of-pocket spending. What are the main findings?  Response: Our study found that older adult (65 years and over) falls impose a large economic burden on the U.S. healthcare system. In 2015, with a total medical cost $50 billion for non-fatal and fatal falls.  About three-quarters of the total cost was paid by government-funded programs.  Medicare paid nearly $29 billion for non-fatal falls, Medicaid $8.7 billion, and $12 billion was paid for by Private/Out-of-pocket expenses.  For fatal falls, $754 million was spent in 2015. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Duke, Electronic Records, JAMA / 21.02.2018 Interview with: Barak Richman JD, PhD Bartlett Professor of Law and Business Administration Duke University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: The US not only has the highest health care costs in the world, we have the highest administrative costs in the world. If we can reduce non-value added costs like the ones we document, we can make substantial changes in the affordability of health care without having to resort to more draconian policy solutions. Our paper finds that administrative costs remain high, even after the adoption of electronic health records.  Billing costs, for example, constituted 25.2% of professional revenue for ED departments and 14.5% of revenue for primary care visits.  The other numbers are captured below. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Immunotherapy, Melanoma, Pharmacology / 22.12.2016 Interview with: Herbert H F Loong MBBS(HK), PDipMDPath(HK), MRCP(UK), FHKCP, FHKAM(Medicine) Specialist in Medical Oncology Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Clinical Oncology Deputy Medical Director, Phase 1 Clinical Trials Centre The Chinese University of Hong Kong Prince of Wales Hospital Hong Kong SAR What is the background for this study?  Response: Advanced melanoma have previously been known to be a disease with a dismal prognosis. Over the last few years, clinical trials data and real-world clinical experience of checkpoint inhibitors have significantly changed the treatment landscape for advanced melanoma patients. This was first demonstrated with the Anti-CTLA4 Ab Ipilimumab, and more recently with the Anti-PD1 Ab pembrolizumab. Whilst we have seen dramatic improvements in disease control with the use of these agents, the high costs of these drugs may be prohibitive to the average patient who has to pay out-of-pocket and potentially may place significant burdens on healthcare systems. There is a need to rationally assess the cost-effectiveness of these new agents, specifically addressing the potential benefits to the individual patient and to society, whilst balancing the costs that such a treatment may entail. The assessment of cost-effectiveness of a particular treatment is extremely important in Hong Kong, as this has direct implications on drug reimbursement and accessibility of the particular drug in question at public hospitals in Hong Kong. The aim of the study is to assess the cost-effectiveness of pembrolizumab in patients with advanced melanoma used in the first-line setting in Hong Kong, and comparing it to (1) ipilimumab and (2) cytotoxic chemotherapy. Cytotoxic chemotherapy chosen for comparison were drugs commonly used in the first line setting in Hong Kong, which included dacarbazine, temozolomide and carboplatin+paclitaxel combination. It is important to note that whilst ipilimumab is registered for this indication in Hong Kong, there is no reimbursement of this drug by the Hospital Authority in Hong Kong and patients have to pay out-of-pocket. The cost of ipilimumab and the associated side effects has been prohibitive to most advanced melanoma patients in the public setting. (more…)
Author Interviews, Compliance, Cost of Health Care / 29.08.2016 Interview with: Elizabeth Geneva Wood, MHPA Department of Health Policy and Administration College of Nursing Washington State University Spokane What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Many people don’t fill prescriptions because they can’t afford them, which is risky for their health. The problem of cost-related nonadherence to prescriptions (CRN) was increasing in prevalence over time until several major policy changes in the 2000s that were intended to help prescription affordability and/or access to health insurance. We observed that each of these major policy changes corresponded with a decrease in CRN among the policy’s target population. For seniors, CRN dropped in 2006, when Medicare Part D came into effect. For younger adults (19-25), CRN dropped in 2010, when the Affordable Care Act began allowing them to stay on their parents’ insurance. Cost-related nonadherence rates also dropped for all non-elderly adults (including the younger ones) in 2014 and 2015, when the Medicaid expansion and the introduction of the health insurance marketplaces offered coverage to many previously-uninsured adults. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Emergency Care / 09.08.2016 Interview with: Jessica Moe MD, MA, PGY5 FRCPC Emergency Medicine, University of Alberta MSc (Candidate) Clinical Epidemiology What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Frequent visitors are common in many urban emergency departments (ED). They represent high resource-utilizing patients; additionally, existing literature demonstrates that they experience higher mortality and adverse health outcomes than non-frequent ED users. Interventions targeting frequent ED users therefore may potentially prevent adverse outcomes in this high risk patient group. The purpose of this study was to provide an up-to-date review of the existing literature on the effectiveness of interventions for adult frequent ED users. This systematic review summarizes evidence from 31 interventional studies. The majority evaluated case management and care plans; a smaller number of studies examined diversion strategies, printout case notes, and social work visits. Overall, the studies were considered to have moderate to high risk of bias; however, 84% of before-after studies found that ED visits significantly decreased after the intervention. Additionally, studies examining interventions for homelessness consistently found that interventions improved stable housing. Overall, effects on hospital admissions and outpatient visits were unclear. In summary, the available evidence is encouraging and suggests interventions targeted towards frequent ED users may be effective in decreasing ED visit frequency and improving housing stability. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Health Care Systems / 21.07.2016 Interview with: Alex Mainor, JD, MPH Research Project Coordinator The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice Lebanon, NH 03756 Carrie H. Colla, Alexander J. Mainor, Courtney Hargreaves, Thomas Sequist, Nancy Morden What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Waste in the healthcare system is an important concern to healthcare providers, patients, policymakers, and taxpayers, and is estimated to account for 30% of all healthcare costs. Low-value care can expose patients to unnecessary costs for little or no medical benefit, or to potential harm from unnecessary tests and procedures. In recent years, the concept of low-value care has gained wider acknowledgement and acceptance as a pressing concern for the healthcare system, and many interventions have been studied to reduce the use of this wasteful care. However, the landscape of these interventions has not been studied in a systematic and comprehensive way. In this review, we found that interventions to reduce the use of wasteful medical care are often studied and published selectively. Findings suggest that interventions using clinical decision support, clinician education, patient education, and interventions combining elements from each have strong potential to reduce low-value care. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Geriatrics / 22.06.2016 Interview with: Pei-Jung Lin, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies Tufts Medical Center Boston, MA 02111 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a slow, progressive disease. Many people with AD may live for years with the disease left unrecognized or untreated, in part because the early symptoms are mild and often mistaken as part of normal aging. In this study, we found that Alzheimer’s patients may use more health care services and incur higher costs than those without dementia even before they receive a formal diagnosis. For example, total Medicare expenditures were 42% higher among Alzheimer’s patients than matched controls during the year prior to diagnosis ($15,091 vs. $10,622), and 192% higher in the first year immediately following diagnosis ($27,126 vs. $9,274). We also found similar trends among Medicare patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI)— a prodromal stage of AD and associated with higher dementia risk. Our study suggests that an Alzheimer’s disease or MCI diagnosis appears to be prompted by other health problems such as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, pneumonia, renal failure, urinary tract infections, and blood and respiratory infections. This finding likely reflects a failure of ambulatory care related to the impact of cognitive impairment on other chronic conditions. (more…)
ASCO, Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Prostate Cancer, Surgical Research / 06.06.2016 Interview with: Sarmad Sadeghi MD, MS, PhD Assistant Professor of Medicine Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center University of Southern California What is the background for this study? Dr. Sadeghi: Several years ago analyses of outcomes for radical prostatectomy highlighted the significant impact of surgical experience on the oncological outcome for the patients. In this case experience was measured by the number of radical prostatectomies performed by the surgeon, and oncological outcome was measured by treatment failure rates (rising PSA). Despite this data, the move for redirecting patients to “high volume centers” where more experienced surgeons perform the operation has been sluggish. There was insufficient data on what is involved in referring patients to high volume centers and whether or not such action is cost effective. In a previous study we demonstrated that for every referral to a high volume center, there would be an average of $1,800 over a follow-up period of 20 years in societal cost savings. The main source of these savings is fewer treatment failures. The next question was who is a good candidate for referral and whether these savings can offset the referral costs. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer, Cancer Research, Cost of Health Care / 14.03.2016 Interview with: Hrishikesh Kale School of Pharmacy Virginia Commonwealth University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The cost of cancer care in the United States is extremely high and escalating every year. Because of increased cost sharing, patients are paying higher out-of-pocket costs for their treatments. Along with high medical expenses, cancer survivors face problems such as loss of employment and reduced productivity. It has been well-established in the literature that because of high out-of-pocket costs, many cancer survivors forgo or delay medical care and mental health-related services and avoid filling prescriptions. This puts their physical and mental health at risk. A related issue is the growing number of cancer survivors in the U.S. As of January 2014, there were approximately 14.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S. By 2024, this number is expected to reach 19 million as a result of improved survival among patients with cancer along with an aging population. Therefore, we decided to investigate the prevalence and sources of financial problems reported by a nationally representative sample of cancer survivors from the 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. We also studied the impact of cancer-related financial burden on survivors’ health-related quality of life and psychological health. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Education, JAMA / 16.12.2015 Interview with: Lorette A. Stammen, MD Department of Educational Development and Research Faculty of Health, Medicine, and Life Sciences Maastricht University, Maastricht The Netherlands Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Stammen: Research indicated that we can improve the quality of care and reduce the health care costs by eliminating health care waste. Health care waste are health care services that are not beneficial to patients. There are many ways to reduce health care waste, like through insurance and government policies modification,  but we were especially interested in how the medical expertise of physicians could improve high-value, cost-conscious care. We conducted a systematic review with the aim of understanding how training programs cause learning among physicians, residents and medical students. We analyzed 79 articles using realist review method and found three important factors that facilitate the learning of physicians (in training).
  • First, educational programs should focus on knowledge transmission. Knowledge that is essential entails knowledge regarding prices and general health economics, scientific evidence, and patient preferences.
  • Besides knowledge, the second factor of training for high-value, cost-conscious care is reflective practice. Reflective practice for example using feedback and asking reflective questions, by peers, colleagues and supervisors to reflect on decisions made in daily practice.
  • The third element of training programs should address an supportive environment in which physicians, residents and medical students learn. A supportive environment is important to cultivate the importance of high-value, cost-conscious care on multiple levels in the health care system. Since physicians are a part of a health care team their training programs should incorporate the training of health care professionals.
  • Furthermore, it is important that role models demonstrate high-value cost-conscious care.
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Blood Pressure - Hypertension, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Heart Disease / 12.11.2015 Interview with: Carrie C. Lubitz, MD, MPH Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School Senior Scientist, Institute for Technology Assessment Attending Surgeon, Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care Danvers, Massachusetts Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Lubitz: Given reported estimates of resistant hypertension and the proportion of resistant hypertensive patients  with primary hyperaldosteronism (PA) - the most common form of secondary hypertension caused by a nodule or hyperplasia of the adrenal glands – we estimate over a million Americans have undiagnosed PA. Furthermore, it has been shown that patients with PA with the same blood pressure as comparable patients with primary hypertension have worse outcomes. In our study, we found that identifying and appropriately treating patients with PA can improve long-term outcomes in patients in a large number of patients who have resistant hypertension. (more…)
Author Interviews, Columbia, Cost of Health Care / 27.03.2015

Peter Muennig, MD, MPH Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health NYC Interview with: Peter Muennig, MD, MPH Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health NYC 10032 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Muennig: The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment (OHIE) is one of just two experimental investigations of the health benefits of medical insurance. The first was the Rand Health Insurance Experiment, which was conducted over 3 decades ago. The OHIE randomly assigned participants to receive Medicaid or their usual care. It found that Medicaid protected families from financial ruin caused by medical illness, that it reduced depression, and that it increased preventive screening tests. However, it produced no medical benefits with respect to high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. Medicaid opponents suggested that this meant that we should get rid of Medicaid because Medicaid does not improve physical health. But Medicaid proponents suggested that too few participants enrolled to detect a benefit, and, regardless of the study’s flaws, reduced depression, financial protections, and improved screening were reason enough to continue. We found that the Medicaid opponents were right. Medicaid actually didn’t produce any meaningful benefits with respect to blood pressure, diabetes, or cholesterol. But we also found that the Medicaid proponents were right. It’s impacts on depression alone rendered it cost-effective even if one does not account for the benefits of financial protections or medical screening. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Duke, JAMA, Radiation Therapy, Thyroid / 19.02.2015

Sanziana Roman MD FACS Professor of Surgery Duke University  Section of Endocrine Surgery Director of the Endocrine Surgery Fellows and Scholars Program Duke University School of Medicine Chief, General Surgery and Associate Chief of Surgery for Clinical Affairs, Interview with: Sanziana Roman MD FACS Professor of Surgery Duke University Section of Endocrine Surgery Director of the Endocrine Surgery Fellows and Scholars Program Duke University School of Medicine Chief, General Surgery and Associate Chief of Surgery for Clinical Affairs, DVAMC Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Roman: Adjuvant radioactive iodine (RAI) is commonly used in the management of differentiated thyroid cancer. The main goals of adjuvant RAI therapy are to ablate remnant thyroid tissue in order to facilitate long-term follow-up of patients, decrease the risk of recurrence, or treat persistent and metastatic lesions. On the other hand, Adjuvant radioactive iodine ( therapy is expensive, with an average cost per patient ranging between $5,429.58 and $9,105.67. It also carries the burden of several potential complications, including loss of taste, nausea, stomatitis with ulcers, acute and/or chronic sialoadenitis, salivary duct obstruction, dental caries, tooth loss, epiphora, anemia, neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, acute radiation pneumonitis, pulmonary fibrosis, male infertility, and radiation-induced malignancies. Therefore, Adjuvant radioactive iodine ( should be used only for appropriately selected patients, for whom the benefits would outweigh the risks. Based on current guidelines, adjuvant RAI is not recommended for patients with papillary thyroid cancers confined to the thyroid gland when all foci are ≤1 cm (papillary thyroid microcarcinoma, or PTMC). Similarly, Adjuvant radioactive iodine ( does not have a role in the treatment of medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancer. Given the fact that variation in treatments exist, our goal was to analyze patterns of inappropriate adjuvant RAI use in the U.S. in order to identify potential misuses leading to an increase of costs for the healthcare system and unnecessary patients’ exposure to risks of complications. (more…)
Annals Internal Medicine, Author Interviews, Compliance, Cost of Health Care, McGill, Pharmacology / 09.04.2014

Robyn Tamblyn BScN Msc PhD James McGill Chair Departments of Medicine and Epidemiology and Biostatistics McGill University Scientific Director Institute of Health Services and Policy Research Canadian Institutes of Health Research Interview with: Robyn Tamblyn BScN Msc PhD James McGill Chair Departments of Medicine and Epidemiology and Biostatistics McGill University and Scientific Director Institute of Health Services and Policy Research Canadian Institutes of Health Research What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Tamblyn: Higher drug costs are associated with a higher probability of primary non-adherence, whereas better follow-up by the prescribing physician, and a policy to provide medication at no cost for the very poor increase the likelihood of adherence (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Outcomes & Safety / 04.06.2013

James D. Chambers, PhD, MPharm Assistant Professor The Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies TuftsMedicalCenter What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Epstein: Using cost-effectiveness evidence to help inform the allocation of expenditures for medical interventions in Medicare has the potential to generate substantial aggregate health gains for the Medicare population with no increases in spending. Reallocating expenditures for interventions in Medicare using cost-effectiveness evidence led to an estimated aggregate health gain of 1.8 million quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), a measure of health gain that accounts for both quality and quantity of life. (more…)