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Study finds that where you live determines your health treatment

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Choose where you’ll age carefully.  New research indicates that where seniors live not only dictates how much health care they receive but also which medications doctors prescribe for them.  The research is new but the results are not.  Seniors often get prescribed medications deemed high risk (and listed on this Beers listing) but the study also showed that treatment options that are proven beneficial to seniors were often ignored for no apparent reason than from which part of the country they live in.  Researchers were unable to explain why there was such a variation in treatment options.

The report is part of the Dartmouth Atlas Project and has occurred annually for about 20 years in an effort to understand the geographic differences in the use of medical services.  This is the project’s first look at prescription drug use.  The point of the study is to find ways to improve patient care and maximize the value of Medicare Part D spending by finding the source of the variation and responding to it.

The study found no correlation between higher drug spending and effective care.  In an analysis of high risk medications, the study found that some regions “appear to selectively use high-risk and discretionary medications at high rates while, in relative terms, forgoing effective drug therapy.”

The study authors concluded that “(r)egional variation in the use of prescription medications has important implications for patients.  The findings presented in this report suggest that region of residence influences the quality of prescription care received, as demonstrated by variation in both effective and potentially harmful medication use.”

For patients with cancer, heart problems and diabetes, where they live plays a role in the type of care they receive.  If you are interested in looking at hospital data for your region, you can type in a specific hospital or zip code to compare.

Other articles of interest:

Why bother hiring a geriatric physician?

5 recommendations for deciding treatment for older adults with chronic diseases



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