Former Director Of The National Center For Health Statistics Decries Reliance On Surveys For Gathering Health Data

March 01, 1997

Appearing in the March/April 1997 issue of Public Health Reports

The United States spends close to one trillion dollars annually on health care yet cannot evaluate the impact of this spending on its population. According to Allyson Pollock, a British physician, and Dorothy Rice, the former director of the National Center for Health Statistics, surveys are expensive, rely on information from individuals and samples, and usually do not follow or track people over time. Surveys cannot answer the critical question of causality--does a particular treatment provide results? Are our health dollars being spent effectively? Surveys are a poor tool to explore the relationship between people's health and the health services they receive.

The United States is the only industrial country that continues to rely on surveys of the population to learn whether and how medical care affects our health.

The authors assert that the United States should adopt national health data standards and track individuals over time. The advantages of collecting data directly from health care providers and payers far outweigh the potential downside of employing national uniform standardized datasets.

The authors note the critical importance of a relatively unnoticed provision ("Administrative Simplification") of The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (PL 104-191) that was signed into law late last year.

What is this law and what would it do? In an accompanying commentary, the answer is offered up by Philip R. Lee, who just retired from the post of Assistant Secretary for Health, and James Scanlon, Director of the Division of Data Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. They spell out how the Administration is proposing to implement the Act's provisions for national health data standards and health information privacy.

ARTICLE CONTACT: Allyson Pollock, Department of Public health Sciences, St. George's Hospital Medical School; tel. 01-44-181-725-2796; fax 01-44-181-725-3584; e-mail <pollock@sghms.ac.uk>. Other author: Dorothy Rice, former Director of the National Center for Health Statistics and Professor Emerita, University of California, San Francisco.

COMMENTARY CONTACT: James Scanlon, Division of Data Policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; tel. 202-690-7100; fax 202-690-5882; e-mail <jscanlon@osaspe.dhhs.gov>.

Public Health Reports

Related Health Care Articles from Brightsurf:

Study evaluates new World Health Organization Labor Care Guide for maternity care providers
The World Health Organization developed the new Labor Care Guide to support clinicians in providing good quality, women-centered care during labor and childbirth.

Six ways primary care "medical homes" are lowering health care spending
New analysis of 394 U.S. primary care practices identifies the aspects of care delivery that are associated with lower health care spending and lower utilization of emergency care and hospital admissions.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

Spending on primary care vs. other US health care expenditures
National health care survey data were used to assess the amount of money spent on primary care relative to other areas of health care spending in the US from 2002 to 2016.

MU Health Care neurologist publishes guidance related to COVID-19 and stroke care
A University of Missouri Health Care neurologist has published more than 40 new recommendations for evaluating and treating stroke patients based on international research examining the link between stroke and novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Large federal program aimed at providing better health care underfunds primary care
Despite a mandate to help patients make better-informed health care decisions, a ten-year research program established under the Affordable Care Act has funded a relatively small number of studies that examine primary care, the setting where the majority of patients in the US receive treatment.

International medical graduates care for Medicare patients with greater health care needs
A study by a Massachusetts General Hospital research team indicates that internal medicine physicians who are graduates of medical schools outside the US care for Medicare patients with more complex medical needs than those cared for by graduates of American medical schools.

The Lancet Global Health: Improved access to care not sufficient to improve health, as epidemic of poor quality care revealed
Of the 8.6 million deaths from conditions treatable by health care, poor-quality care is responsible for an estimated 5 million deaths per year -- more than deaths due to insufficient access to care (3.6 million) .

Under Affordable Care Act, Americans have had more preventive care for heart health
By reducing out-of-pocket costs for preventive treatment, the Affordable Care Act appears to have encouraged more people to have health screenings related to their cardiovascular health.

High-deductible health care plans curb both cost and usage, including preventive care
A team of researchers based at IUPUI has conducted the first systematic review of studies examining the relationship between high-deductible health care plans and the use of health care services.

Read More: Health Care News and Health Care Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.