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Mark Favaloro
Mark Favaloro
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Study Finds Geography Can Greatly Impact Medical Care

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In a troubling survey, health experts recently announced that a person’s geographic location could have a major impact on the treatment they receive from doctors. The study, published by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, is further evidence that the American healthcare system often operates in an illogical way, failing to offer uniform treatment to patients across the country.

Researchers say that started by looking at prescriptions written for and filled by patients on Medicare. They specifically looked at the occurrence of several types of prescription medication: blood pressure and cholesterol drugs that should be prescribed across the board following a heart attack. The results were shocking. In San Angelo, TX, 91 percent of all heart attack patients filled a prescription for a beta-blocker drug to lower blood pressure, a great number showing quality care. However, in Salem, Oregon, only 62.5 percent of patients did. For a statin drug, which is used to lower cholesterol, the rates swung from a high of 91 percent of patients in Ogden, Utah to 44 percent of those in Abilene, Texas.

The study also looked at prescription rates for osteoporosis drugs, something that the medical community says should be given to anyone with osteoporosis who breaks a bone. Despite this standard advice, the survey showed that only 14 percent of patients across the country with the condition received a prescription. The rates ranged from a high of 28 percent for those living in Honolulu to 6.8 percent in Newark, New Jersey.

Even more bizarre is that the study shows that there appears to be no reason for the vast differences. Health experts say that while doctors can reasonably disagree about certain courses of treatment, the medications studied in this case are uniformly seen as good and necessary and ought to be standard parts of any protocol following heart trouble or a broken bone.

The researchers behind the study say that the blame for this dipartites should be laid at the feet of doctors who are responsible for prescribing the drugs. The fact is that such treatments should be common knowledge to all doctors. The authors of the study say that their results show how far the medical industry still needs to come to ensure that patients receive the quality care they deserve.