Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
The Dartmouth Atlas Project

The Dartmouth Atlas Project

ceo_minute Since 1996, the Dartmouth Atlas Project has been researching Medicare data to show variation in the provision of medical care for Medicare patients across the United States. Projects like this can really help us improve our quality efforts, including DSRIP projects. For example, it measures the rate of certain tests or vaccines ordered across the country for certain groups of patients, otherwise known as “cohorts.”

By comparing local data to national data, a community can tell where it stands as compared to the rest of the nation, and be able to ask the question, “Why?” Here’s an example from the Dartmouth web site addressing PSA (prostate-specific antigen) testing and cancer of the prostate:

As you may know, prostate cancer is common among aging men. Though most prostate cancer progresses slowly and is benign, there is concern that some of us will develop the more aggressive, deadly form of the disease. In 2013, approximately 240,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States, and about 30,000 men died from this disease. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men. Knowing that PSA testing, while not without controversy, does lead to early detection of prostate cancer and better outcomes, what does the Dartmouth Atlas project tell us about the rate of PSA testing among Medicare patients in the West Texas area?

In 2010, 23.7 percent of male Medicare beneficiaries in the Lubbock area, age 68-74, received a PSA test. The national average for PSA testing in this cohort was 34.5 percent. In the Odessa area, just 135 miles away, the rate was 36.9 percent. There is an obvious degree of variation between two cities in West Texas. The question is, “Why the difference, and how can this knowledge aid in improving patient outcomes?”

If you have ideas regarding how we can use data like this to evaluate the services of Texas Tech Physicians and improve population health, I would like to hear your thoughts. For further information, this is the web address of the Dartmouth Atlas: http://www.dartmouthatlas.org/