Principles for Health Reform & EBM

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), just launched their health reform campaign called Solutions Start Here. Their 10 small business principles for healthcare reform includes:

The healthcare system must encourage consumers and providers to accumulate evidence and to use that evidence to improve health. Appropriate treatment choices and better wellness and preventive care should be key outcomes.

Current information and decision systems make it difficult to accumulate, interpret and use evidence affecting treatment decisions. One result is overspending on treatments and underspending on prevention. Decision-makers must understand the impact of their decisions on both costs and outcomes. Such an understanding must be based on solid clinical and economic evidence.

(The NFIB’s other 9 reform principles are Universal, Private, Affordable, Unbiased, Competitive, Portable, Transparent, Efficient, and Realistic.)

As I’ve said before, evidence-based medicine is great in theory, but like a lot of good theories, it can go sour in practice. Thinking about the NFIB’s membership and how they might do business based upon evidence-based value of their products and services, selling undercoating for automobiles came to mind. I’ve been told that buying this dealer sprayed on stuff (versus what’s applied at the factory before the car gets trucked hundreds or thousands of miles to you) is a waste of money – and of course getting undercoating applied to used cars makes even less sense.

Applying evidence-based standards to many products and services would be great, but it could also drive many small businesses into bankruptcy – because either the evidence shows there is no value, or the business isn’t big enough to pay for the research to generate the evidence. Of course I realize that healthcare companies are generally not small businesses, but the same principles of investing scarce resources should apply – What goals are we trying to achieve (improve quality? control costs?); How much are we going to invest in a particularly project or problem area (both dollars and experts’ time that can only be used once); What are the expected returns towards our goals from those investments, and how are we going to measure that progress? Many of these questions seem to remain unanswered in the healthcare debate, and in the push for more “evidence-based” medicine.

Any other thoughts on EBM?

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