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Oklahoma passes U.S. rate of elective heart surgery

A new report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project analyzes care provided in regions across the U.S. and focuses on trends in elective, or “preference-sensitive,” procedures. In particular, Oklahoma passes the national average in balloon angioplasty.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: December 13, 2012 at 10:21 pm •  Published: December 14, 2012

‘Aggressive' practices

“Either you've got one hell of a heart disease problem, or you have practices in Oklahoma City that are more aggressive, and they're more likely to recommend this procedure,” she said.

The procedure is one of the most profitable that a hospital can offer, and sometimes, it can be a hospital's entire profit margin, Brownlee said.

The procedure has proved effective in the middle of a heart attack — getting a balloon angioplasty or stent can reduce your chance of dying over getting clot-busting drugs, Brownlee said.

But research has shown that, of an estimated 2 million people who got the procedure about five years ago, about 800,000 procedures were performed because of a heart attack, Brownlee said.

1.2 million elective

The other 1.2 million people got the procedure electively, Brownlee said.

“You can be an appropriate candidate for this procedure and still choose not to do the procedure because it is elective,” Brownlee said. “It's not like you're going to die if you don't do PCI, and in fact, it's very likely that the drugs and medical management will control your chest pain about as well as PCI will in many cases.”

Dr. John Harvey, Oklahoma Heart Hospital CEO, has found that even after he explains to patients what percutaneous coronary intervention will and won't do for them, they still prefer the more aggressive treatment, even when he tells them that the stent won't keep them from having a heart attack

“It's important that we as physicians explain there isn't a difference in mortality,” Harvey said. “There is value to balloon angioplasty or stent procedures, but you need to explain what the value is.”

Harvey said physicians could do a better job of policing themselves, tracking what their utilization rates and comparing that to the national average. And overall, physicians must do a better job of explaining the value versus the risk of a procedure, Harvey said.

“I'm certain there are some physicians who don't do an adequate job of explaining the options to patients,” Harvey said.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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