With funding from the National Cancer Institute, researchers seek to understand how certain types of cancer surgeries have lower hospital costs per patient at some facilities. Vivian Ho is chair in health economics at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.
"But the implications of this in terms of policy are, you know, suppose we find that even after all this that we find, for example, that higher-volume surgeons will lead to lower healthcare costs for the healthcare system. Well, then that suggests that we should we be recommending that patients seek out higher-volume surgeons for care because not only are they going to have better outcomes after the surgery, but they're going to lead to lower healthcare costs for the entire healthcare system."
Ho says higher-volume hospitals might have better outcomes and lower costs, although that doesn't readily show up in data.
"So my suspicions are that higher-volume hospitals actually are achieving better outcomes by lowering the rates of complications and lowering readmission rates and things like that. But it's not showing up in the overall data simply because they're investing more resources in their intensive care units and their operating rooms and in terms of spending more on nursing care. So, if that's the case, then, though, it still justifies care at high-volume hospitals. It's saying that we have to invest more to get better outcomes."
The results of the research could help identify cost-effective approaches to providing cancer surgery.