(1/500) Excess capacity: markets regulation, and values.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the conceptual bases for the conflicting views of excess capacity in healthcare markets and their application in the context of today's turbulent environment. STUDY SETTING: The policy and research literature of the past three decades. STUDY DESIGN: The theoretical perspectives of alternative economic schools of thought are used to support different policy positions with regard to excess capacity. Changes in these policy positions over time are linked to changes in the economic and political environment of the period. The social values implied by this history are articulated. DATA COLLECTION: Standard library search procedures are used to identify relevant literature. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Alternative policy views of excess capacity in healthcare markets rely on differing theoretical foundations. Changes in the context in which policy decisions are made over time affect the dominant theoretical framework and, therefore, the dominant policy view of excess capacity. CONCLUSIONS: In the 1990s, multiple perspectives of optimal capacity still exist. However, our evolving history suggests a set of persistent values that should guide future policy in this area.  (+info)

(2/500) A taxonomy of health networks and systems: bringing order out of chaos.

OBJECTIVE: To use existing theory and data for empirical development of a taxonomy that identifies clusters of organizations sharing common strategic/structural features. DATA SOURCES: Data from the 1994 and 1995 American Hospital Association Annual Surveys, which provide extensive data on hospital involvement in hospital-led health networks and systems. STUDY DESIGN: Theories of organization behavior and industrial organization economics were used to identify three strategic/structural dimensions: differentiation, which refers to the number of different products/services along a healthcare continuum; integration, which refers to mechanisms used to achieve unity of effort across organizational components; and centralization, which relates to the extent to which activities take place at centralized versus dispersed locations. These dimensions were applied to three components of the health service/product continuum: hospital services, physician arrangements, and provider-based insurance activities. DATA EXTRACTION METHODS: We identified 295 health systems and 274 health networks across the United States in 1994, and 297 health systems and 306 health networks in 1995 using AHA data. Empirical measures aggregated individual hospital data to the health network and system level. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We identified a reliable, internally valid, and stable four-cluster solution for health networks and a five-cluster solution for health systems. We found that differentiation and centralization were particularly important in distinguishing unique clusters of organizations. High differentiation typically occurred with low centralization, which suggests that a broader scope of activity is more difficult to centrally coordinate. Integration was also important, but we found that health networks and systems typically engaged in both ownership-based and contractual-based integration or they were not integrated at all. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, we were able to classify approximately 70 percent of hospital-led health networks and 90 percent of hospital-led health systems into well-defined organizational clusters. Given the widespread perception that organizational change in healthcare has been chaotic, our research suggests that important and meaningful similarities exist across many evolving organizations. The resulting taxonomy provides a new lexicon for researchers, policymakers, and healthcare executives for characterizing key strategic and structural features of evolving organizations. The taxonomy also provides a framework for future inquiry about the relationships between organizational strategy, structure, and performance, and for assessing policy issues, such as Medicare Provider Sponsored Organizations, antitrust, and insurance regulation.  (+info)

(3/500) Assessment of physician-assisted death by members of the public prosecution in The Netherlands.

OBJECTIVES: To identify the factors that influence the assessment of reported cases of physician-assisted death by members of the public prosecution. DESIGN/SETTING: At the beginning of 1996, during verbal interviews, 12 short case-descriptions were presented to a representative group of 47 members of the public prosecution in the Netherlands. RESULTS: Assessment varied considerably between respondents. Some respondents made more "lenient" assessments than others. Characteristics of the respondents, such as function, personal-life philosophy and age, were not related to the assessment. Case characteristics, i.e. the presence of an explicit request, life expectancy and the type of suffering, strongly influenced the assessment. Of these characteristics, the presence or absence of an explicit request was the most important determinant of the decision whether or not to hold an inquest. CONCLUSIONS: Although the presence of an explicit request, life expectancy and the type of suffering each influenced the assessment, each individual assessment was dependent on the assessor. The resulting danger of legal inequality and legal uncertainty, particularly in complicated cases, should be kept to a minimum by the introduction of some form of protocol and consultation in doubtful or boundary cases. The notification procedure already promotes a certain degree of uniformity in the prosecution policy.  (+info)

(4/500) Lot quality assurance sampling for monitoring immunization programmes: cost-efficient or quick and dirty?

In recent years Lot quality assurance sampling (LQAS), a method derived from production-line industry, has been advocated as an efficient means to evaluate the coverage rates achieved by child immunization programmes. This paper examines the assumptions on which LQAS is based and the effect that these assumptions have on its utility as a management tool. It shows that the attractively low sample sizes used in LQAS are achieved at the expense of specificity unless unrealistic assumptions are made about the distribution of coverage rates amongst the immunization programmes to which the method is applied. Although it is a very sensitive test and its negative predictive value is probably high in most settings, its specificity and positive predictive value are likely to be low. The implications of these strengths and weaknesses with regard to management decision-making are discussed.  (+info)

(5/500) Understanding the basis of treatment choices for varicose veins: a model for decision making with the repertory grid technique.

OBJECTIVES: To use the repertory grid technique as a method for identifying and rating the criteria that clinicians use to make a choice between the different treatment options for patients with a common condition such as varicose veins. DESIGN: The "expert panel" consensus method for rating the appropriateness of clinical procedures was modified with an existing psychometric method, the repertory grid technique. To identify the criteria used to decide about treatment, the panel members compared and contrasted a range of nine "treatment prototypes". They were then required to rate each criterion for its relevance to each treatment prototype. SETTING: The panel was selected from different geographical locations in the South Western Regional Health Authority. SUBJECTS: The expert panel was composed of six vascular surgeons, three from teaching and three from non-teaching hospitals; two general practitioners who were also clinical assistants in vascular surgery; and one honorary senior lecturer in general practice. MAIN MEASURES: Decision making criteria were categorised according to their content. Their frequency of replication was noted-that is, how many clinicians used the same criterion. Computer analysis of the rating scores for the nine panel members identified the relative importance of each treatment criterion for each treatment option. RESULTS: 161 criteria for the treatment of varicose veins were elicited from the nine participants. These criteria were wide ranging, from clinical indications (48% of those used), to social (32%), and organisational factors (20%). Clinical indications were more likely to be used when deciding about surgery as a high priority, whereas social and organisational criteria were more likely to be applied in decisions about surgery as a low priority, day case surgery, and cosmetic surgery. CONCLUSIONS: The repertory grid technique proved to be effective in modelling decision making for a condition such as varicose veins: its use enabled both the identification of the wide range of criteria underlying the decision to treat and the exploration of the relative importance of these criteria in relation to several treatment options. Its potential as a method for reducing variation in clinical decision making and thus improving distribution of high quality care lies in its ability to pinpoint dilemmas of decision making rather than as the basis for drawing up guidelines to regulate decision making practice.  (+info)

(6/500) Challenges in implementing a budget-holding programme for primary care clinics.

In 1990, Kupat Holim Clalit (KHC), Israel's largest sick fund, initiated a demonstration programme for transforming a number of primary care clinics in the Negev district of southern Israel into autonomous budget-holding units. Four programme components were implemented in the nine participating clinics: allocation of a fixed budget; expansion of day-to-day decision-making authority; establishment of a computerized information system to produce monthly reports on expenditure; and provision of incentives for budgetary control. The research findings are based on a four-year evaluation of the programme, which involved a longitudinal case study conducted with multiple research tools: in-depth interviews, a staff survey, and analysis of relevant documents. This article analyzes the challenges involved in implementing the demonstration programme. It examines clinic staff evaluation of the implementation process (e.g. overall staff had a positive attitude toward it); assesses staff satisfaction with clinic participation in the programme (while only 33% were satisfied, only 21% said they would like the clinic to revert to the pre-programme model) and factors influencing this satisfaction (among them intrinsic benefits, perception of the programme as fair and age); and discusses the lessons to be learnt from the programme regarding effective implementation of organizational change. The main lessons indicate the importance of certain factors in implementing such programmes: (a) long-term management commitment to the programme; (b) appointment of agents of change/programme administrators; (c) establishment of a formal agreement between the parties involved; (d) establishment of communication channels between the parties involved; (e) intrinsic benefits for staff, perceived as incentives to economize; (f) reliable data, perceived to be reliable by the parties involved; (g) staff participation in the process of change; and (h) involvement of the participating unit as a single entity.  (+info)

(7/500) Comparison of NHS and private patients undergoing elective transurethral resection of the prostate for benign prostatic hypertrophy.

OBJECTIVES: To compare the operative thresholds and clinical management of men undergoing elective transurethral resection of the prostate for benign prostatic hypertrophy in the NHS and privately. DESIGN: Cohort study of patients recruited by 25 surgeons during 1988. SETTING: Hospitals in Oxford and North West Thames regions. PATIENTS: Of 400 consecutive patients, 129 were excluded because of open surgery (nine), lack of surgeons' information (three), and emergency admission (117) and three failed to give information, leaving 268 patients, 214 NHS patients and 54 private patients. MAIN MEASURES: Sociodemographic factors, prevalence and severity of symptoms, comorbidity, general health (Nottingham health profile) obtained from patient questionnaire preoperatively and reasons for operating, and operative management obtained from surgeons perioperatively. RESULTS: NHS and private patients were similar in severity of symptoms and prevalence of urinary tract abnormalities. They differed in four respects: NHS patients' general health was poorer as a consequence of more comorbid conditions (49, 23% v 7, 13% in severe category); the condition had a greater detrimental effect on their lives (36, 17% v 2, 4% severely affected; p < 0.01); private patients received more personalised care more quickly and were investigated more before surgery, (29, 54% v 60, 20% receiving ultrasonography of the urinary tract); and NHS patients stayed in hospital longer (57, 27% v 3, 6% more than seven days; p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Private patients' need for surgery, judged by symptom severity, was as great as that of NHS patients, and there was no evidence of different operative thresholds in the two sectors, but, judged by impact on lifestyle, NHS patients' need was greater.  (+info)

(8/500) To contract or not to contract? Issues for low and middle income countries.

Many low and middle income countries have inherited publicly funded and provided health services, often operating at relatively low levels of technical efficiency. Changing ideas about the management of the public sector, in particular stemming from new public management theory, are spreading to these countries, whether directly or via the recommendations of multilateral and bilateral aid agencies. Pronouncements of agencies such as the World Bank imply that competitive contracting with the private sector is likely to improve the efficiency of services provision. However, very little evidence is available on whether this is likely to be the case, and in what circumstances delivery of services through contracts with the private sector is likely to be preferable to direct provision by the public sector. This paper draws on evidence from five country case-studies of contractual arrangements, in Bombay, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Thailand and Zimbabwe, done through collaborative research between the LSHTM Health Economics and Financing Programme and local researchers in each country. A common evaluative framework was applied in each country to selected, existing contractual arrangements. Services provided under contract and evaluated included catering, cleaning, security, diagnostic services and whole hospitals. Information is presented on the design of contracts, the process of agreeing contracts including the extent of competition, and the monitoring of contract performance. A variety of evidence, including information on the relative cost and quality of contracted out versus directly provided services in the case of South Africa, Thailand, and Bombay, is used to explore whether or not contracting out to the private sector represented a preferable means of service provision. This analysis, together with information on the capacity of the agency letting the contract, and on the wider environment including the level of development of the private sector, is used to identify which aspects of the contracting process and the context in which it takes place are important in influencing whether or not contracting with the private sector is a desirable means of service provision.  (+info)