Friday, February 24, 2017

Arrow in memoriam

K. J. Arrow passed away this Wednesday. He is one of the giants of economics and the founder of health economics. It is difficult to summarise his works in few words. You'll find obituaries in the Post and NYT. Josep M. Colomer has written an interesting post in his blog (social choice perspective). Tony Culyer has published also his obituary (health economics perspective)

An interview in a recent book reviews his works and opinions. Regarding healt economics, he says:
I was asked to study, as a theoretical economist, health care. This was a paper that I regard very highly, one of the best things I ever did. I think I mentioned that in fact, afair amount of my research is the result of people asking me these kinds of questions. I studied Social Choice because somebody asked me a question. A now retired professor, Victor Fuchs, was then at the Ford Foundation, and they wanted to get studies done of social problems. They wanted studies of welfare—in the ordinary sense of the word—of medical care and of education. For each of these areas, they wanted one study by somebody who had worked in the field and one by a theorist, and I’m a theorist who had not necessarily worked with people.
In my case, I was asked to work on medical care. I read up on the literature, and gradually a pattern emerged that essentially the parties know different things. The physician knows a lot that the patient doesn’t, and therefore the patient can’t check on the quality of medical care in the same way we buy a loaf of bread. It’s not like I’ll buy that loaf again. But with medical care, you can’t be sure because you don’t know that much. It’s the same thing between the insurer and the physician or the patient. So I said that with medical care, noneconomic factors, essentially ethical codes, play a role in keeping the system together. But I didn’t have a theory at the time, I just had a statement. It was pretty clear to me that non-economic factors do play a major role. What is considered good practice, that’s what keeps the system going. The trouble is that I’ve seen the limits of economic analysis. I could see one solution, but it was very different from market kinds of solutions. But I did have a theory about it.
When I look at other people, they don’t have theories either, or they have rather vague theories. When I try to impart this to students, of course it’s a very confusing message. That’s one of the reasons I don’t think I’ve been a great teacher. I’ve perhaps had students who did appreciate what I was doing, although they tended to pick up the more technical parts of it. I’m a little disappointed they haven’t tried to tackle the broader picture. If they’re working with it, they’ve done very fine work, going well beyond what I did. So I’d say that would be a rather lengthy answer to your question. I see myself primarily as a scholar, as a thinker about things, trying to enlist others in this thinking. Yes, I think I would say that more so than others.
PS. Arrow in my posts

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Genome editing, closer than you think

Human Genome Editing Science, Ethics, and Governance

Last week the US patent office ruled that hotly disputed patents on the CRISPR revolutionary genome-editing technology belong to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. In a former post I explained the dispute. Genome editing in my opinion shouldn't be patented and will see exactly the impact of such ruling in US and elsewhere in the next future.
If you want to know in detail what does genome editing means for the future of life sciences, have a look at NASEM book.
It is now possible to insert or delete single nucleotides,interrupt a gene or genetic element, make a single-stranded break in DNA, modify a nucleotide, or make epigenetic changes to gene expression. In the realm of biomedicine, genome editing could be used for three broad purposes: for basic research, for somatic interventions, and for germline interventions.
CRISPR (which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) refers to short, repeated segments of DNA originally discovered in bacteria. These segments provided the foundation for the development of a system that combines short RNA sequences paired with Cas9 (CRISPR associated protein 9, an RNA-directed nuclease), or with similar nucleases, and can readily be programmed to edit specific segments of DNA. The CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing system offers several advantages over previous strategies for making changes to the genome and has been at the center of much discussion concerning how genome editing could be applied to promote human health.
I would just want to say that these patents destroy the soul of science, since access should be available with no barriers for the development of  innovation. Patents are not the incentive for discovery in this case, as I explained in my post, natural processes should'nt be patented. And this is why today is a really sad day.

PS. My posts against patents






Michael Kiwanuka. Home again

Monday, February 20, 2017

An article that surpasses publication bias

Evaluación de la efectividad de un programa de atención integrada y proactiva a pacientes crónicos complejos

Publication bias (Wikipedia dixit): Publication bias is a type of bias that occurs in published academic research. It occurs when the outcome of an experiment or research study influences the decision whether to publish or otherwise distribute it. Publication bias matters because literature reviews regarding support for a hypothesis can be biased if the original literature is contaminated by publication bias. Publishing only results that show a significant finding disturbs the balance of findings

We've just surpassed such conventional view and have published a new article on integrated care and I've prepared a short post in the blog of Gaceta Sanitaria (in castillian):

La integración asistencial a examen

Todo estudio experimental tiene un contexto, y antes de entrar en el detalle resulta crucial comprenderlo para evaluar sus resultados. Hay dos términos usuales en la política sanitaria de nuestros días: integración asistencial y cronicidad. En Gaceta Sanitaria encontrareis el artículo: “Evaluación de la efectividad de un programa de atención integrada y proactiva a pacientes crónicos complejos”. El programa tiene lugar en el Baix Empordà, en una organización sanitaria integrada y si comparamos indicadores de utilización y calidad seleccionados (Tabla 4) observaremos que superan sustancialmente la media del sistema sanitario público catalán. Este ya es un primer reto en sí mismo, mejorar cuando se parte de una posición de ventaja relativa.
Los profesionales están acostumbrados a dos décadas de práctica asistencial integrada. Esto significa que cualquier aproximación organizativa alternativa se internaliza y se difunde, lo que dificulta aislar el impacto.
Se aplicó un modelo predictivo que resultó ser el punto de partida para la selección de pacientes. Es previsible que en un futuro próximo sea posible la estimación probabilística de trayectorias y episodios para los enfermos crónicos complejos. Esto nos aportaría mayor precisión a la estratificación dinámica de pacientes.
Las conclusiones del estudio muestran ligeras reducciones en la utilización hospitalaria fruto del programa. Pero mantienen patrones similares entre los distintos grupos sujetos a intervención. Es por ello que destacaría dos afirmaciones del artículo: “una situación general de alta calidad asistencial previa y mantenida en el ámbito de la intervención, y una inevitable contaminación entre grupos,  dificultaron la demostración de una efectividad marginal del programa” y “la estratificación de la población con una identificación explícita de los pacientes crónicos complejos puede ayudar a avanzar los resultados, y el criterio clínico los hace  extensivos a todos los pacientes de características similares”.
Esto nos lleva a confirmar las dificultades de los estudios experimentales en los que deseamos probar el impacto de un cambio organizativo. Este estudio sería candidato a no ser publicado, porque su resultado mantiene una ambivalencia y no permite pronunciarse con claridad sobre la opción defendida con carácter general en nuestros días: la superioridad de la atención integrada y proactiva de los pacientes crónicos complejos frente a otras alternativas. Sin embargo, su publicación además de alertar sobre la dificultad de este tipo de estudios, nos señala nuevas pistas.  Más allá de los cambios en la utilización y coste que representa la integración asistencial, necesitamos medir los resultados en salud y la calidad en los episodios asistenciales, comprender el impacto en salud de estas estrategias organizativas. Esta es la tarea más relevante y sobre la que se deberían enfocar nuevos estudios. Es por ello que las investigaciones las estamos centrando en la medida de los cambios en la esperanza de vida de buena salud a lo largo del tiempo y en la medida de los episodios. Este tipo de medidas agregadas, junto con otras de carácter fisiológico y de percepción de salud y bienestar tienen que permitir alcanzar una visión más completa de lo que aporta la integración asistencial.

A tribute to the great Jim Croce (1942-1973)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Satisfaction guaranteed (at a high price)

Euro Health Consumer Index 2016

The survey has a clear message: the more you have choice on healthcare, the more you are satisfied (in general). The Netherlands leads the ranking every year in the last decade. The european countries that spend most on health per capita are Luxembourg (6.023€), Germany (4.003€) and Netherlands (3.983€). Luxembourg lies behind in satisfaction, while Switzerland (choice) is in the second position and the third is for Norway (not so strong in choice).
Choice may provide satisfaction, but you have to agree on a model that supports it, and be able to pay the bill. Personally, I'm not so sure about choice as a general construct to support decision making and satisfaction, a former post explains my doubts.
Long time ago the European Union made surveys on satisfaction, and decided to stop, because it was an easy policy tool for the opponents. Right now we do have only the Euro Health Consumer Index 2016. Unfortunately you'll not find data on Catalonia, it will appear in a next edition.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A prescription for “high-need, high-cost” patients

David Blumenthal presented at the recent  OECD health conference the Commonwealth Fund report: Designing a High-Performing Health Care System for Patients with Complex Needs: Ten Recommendations for Policymakers
These are the recommendations:

1. Make care coordination a high priority for patients with complex needs
2. Identify patients at greatest need of proactive, coordinated care
3. Train more primary care physicians and geriatricians
4. Improve communication between providers, e.g. integrated clinical records
5. Engage patients in decisions about their care
6. Provide better support for carers
7. Redesign funding mechanisms for patients with complex needs
8. Integrate health and social care, and physical and mental healthcare
9. Engage clinicians in change, train and support clinical leaders
10.Learn from experience; scale up successful projects

Once again, the issue is not about what, but about how, according to the specific setting. This is the reason why change implies modify incentives and coordination mechanisms. This is the hardest part, with cost and benefits uneven distributed over time and people. And this is the reason why recommendations fail so often in its implementation.

 
 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Common challenges and responses to improve healthcare quality


Key messages from the last OECD report on quality:

Systemic changes on where and how health care is delivered will optimise both quality and efficiency
Lesson 1: High-performing health care systems offer primary care as a specialist service that provides comprehensive care to patients with complex needs
Lesson 2: Patient-centred care requires more effective primary and secondary prevention in primary care.
Lesson 3: High-quality mental health care systems require strong health information systems and mental health training in primary care
Lesson 4: New models of shared care are required to promote co-ordination across health and social care systems
Health care systems need to engage patients as active players in improving health care, while modernising the role of health professionals
Lesson 5: A strong patient voice is a priority to keep health care systems focussed on quality when financial pressures are acute
Lesson 6: Measuring what matters to people delivers the outcomes that patients expect
Lesson 7: Health literacy helps drive high-value care
Lesson 8: Continuous professional development and evolving practice maximise the contribution of health professionals
Health care systems need to better employ transparency and incentives as key quality-improvement tools
Lesson 9: High-performing health care systems have strong information infrastructures that are linked to quality-improvement tools
Lesson 10: Linking patient data is a pre-requisite for improving quality across pathways of care
Lesson 11: External evaluation of health care organisation needs to be fed into continuous quality-improvement cycles
Lesson 12: Improving patient safety requires greater effort to collect, analyse and learn from adverse events
It may sound as a dejà-vu, and the difficult part is how, not what to do to improve quality. However if you want to read an article on health care quality comparisons, check this one. Comparing quality is crucial because we are used to compare expenditure without a detailed knowledge of quality achievement. We'll have to follow next reports on the issue.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

The coverage of health risk and the extent of generosity

The Right to Health A Multi-Country Study of Law, Policy and Practice

If we look at European Union, the right to health is heterogeneous. The size of the difference among countries depends on many factors, and path dependence explains mostly such diversity. If you want to check beyond EU, a new book explains how countries define health risck coverage under different arrangements.
Looking at health through a human rights lens tells us something about the nature of illness that epidemiology and biology cannot: it encourages us to consider to what extent illness is unjust. It also frames illness and disease within the political, social, cultural, and economic conditions that surround it; considers the power dynamics that perpetuate illness and disease; and focuses the attention on marginalized and vulnerable groups that may exist outside of medical research priorities or beyond the target demographics of political decisions, at greatest risk of becoming invisible. Worse still, history has shown us that in extreme situations medical professionals can be used as tools of the state to cover up or even inflict abuse. Considering the complex relationship between justice and health, using the international framework for the right to health offers the possibility of mitigating some of the effects of deeply embedded inequalities and discrimination and promoting environments in which anyone can achieve their highest level of health.
There is a major misunderstanding about the frame of the right to health. Somebody should specify that we are talking mostly of right to health care and state at the same time about the individual duties on health. Anyway, let's imagine a country that close to 2% of population are il.legal immigrants that have the right to health care accepted as any citizen, this is my country.  Unfortunately such unique level of generosity and solidarity you'll not find it in this book:


PS. Somebody should ask at the same time if going beyond such level of generosity is financially sustainable. However this is an inconvenient question, a politically incorrect one.

PS. Good post.This Economic Phenomenon Is Making Government Sick and this one

Friday, February 10, 2017

The future of health statistics

RECOMMENDATIONS TO OECD MINISTERS OF HEALTH FROM THE HIGH LEVEL REFLECTION GROUP ON THE FUTURE OF HEALTH STATISTICS

You may find information on quality of healthcare in many websites. Catalonia has developed a broad strategy in this topic. You may check "Central de Resultats", and you'll find details about it. However, what about patients perspectives on quality?.
OECD has started an approach known as Patient Reported indicators survey. We'll have to wait for more details, but this initiative will cover a range of topics that provider led information forgets.
And this approach is only a tool from a wide set of recommendations about the future of health statistics. Sounds good.

Miró- Projecte per Catalunya

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The endogenous democide of Spain

From Theorising Democide: Why and How Democracies Fail:
Ko Maeda has made the case that ‘research on the determinants of democratic durability can be advanced by paying closer attention to the manner by which democracies are terminated.’ Specifically for Maeda, we need to pay closer attention to two distinct types of democratic breakdowns: endogenous termination and exogenous termination
Exogenous termination: when democracy and its popularly elected government are overthrown by forces external to the democracy and government. Spain suffered a coup d'état in February 23rd, 1981.
Endogenous termination:‘where democratically elected leaders ended the democratic process themselves’,endogenous terminations occur most frequently as the result of acts ‘suspending the constitution, arresting the opposition politicians, restricting the activities of the mass media, or rigging electoral results’. Against the conventional assumption that democracies do not self-immolate, there has been little or at least a great deal less attention paid to breakdowns of democracies whose source stems from democratic practices and institutions themselves. But as Maeda is quick to identify, this assumption has been problematic given the empirical data, which suggests that some 40 per cent of all democratic breakdowns which occurred between 1950 and 2004 were due to  endogenous factors. Democracies fail, and they do so not because of some extrinsic or exogenous factor. Indeed, almost half of all democracies that have collapsed during the last half century have done so as a result of endogenous causes: that is, democratic  reasons and processes. In other words, there is something intrinsic to democracy that makes it prone to self-destruct.
When incapable of redressing the political crises they have manufactured  themselves,whether because of individual freedoms, bureaucratic morass or the sluggishness of democratic politics, the claim is that democracies can die by their own hand. They have, in Keane’s words, ‘suffered and died under several bad moons’, another of which he claims ‘is now rising over all democracy’ In contrast to its more common meaning – the murder of a person or people by their government – the theory of democide put forward in this book focuses instead on a people who elect, by more or less democratic means, to murder their democracy.
This is precisely what will begin tomorrow. The indictment of our former president and 4 ministers confirms the process of democide of Spain.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017