March 18, 2013 — "A new study has found widespread failure among doctors to follow clinical guidelines for treating ovarian cancer, which kills 15,000 women a year in this country," a New York Times editorial states, adding, "This disturbing news shows the kind of challenge that health care reformers are up against in improving medical care -- even when cost is not the issue."
The study -- presented last Monday at a conference on gynecologic cancers -- found that only 37% of more than 13,000 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer between 1999 and 2006 "received the care recommended in guidelines set by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of 21 major cancer centers," the editorial states. Survival rates were significantly worse for women who were not treated in accordance with the guidelines.
"The poor showing raises perplexing issues for health care reform," which contains "many provisions intended to improve the quality of care," the editorial notes. "However, such measures won't accomplish much if doctors continue to ignore the recommendations made by experts from their own professional societies," according to the editorial.
"One of the surest ways to improve performance would be to analyze and make public how well individual doctors and hospitals do in treating various diseases," the editorial argues, noting that the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) "gives doctors incentives to report various quality measures to the federal government."
The ACA also "promotes treatments based on sound evidence and electronic health records (which allow for data collection), two advances that could make it easier for patients and their primary-care doctors to find specialists who have had superior results" (New York Times, 3/13).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership