The Boston Globe reports:
Call it the ‘Partners Effect:’
Elite hospitals are paid much more for care that is often no better than average. It is the best kept secret in Massachusetts medicine.
Behind the rankings
To walk the gleaming corridors of Partners’ flagship hospitals is to tour a Hippocratic Hall of Fame: Dr. William Morton first demonstrated the use of anesthesia in surgery at Mass. General in 1846. Dr. Joseph Murray carried out the first successful organ transplant at the Brigham in 1954. Today, the two hospitals manage one of the largest biomedical research budgets in the country, carrying out cutting-edge studies on everything from AIDS to arthritis and attracting patients from all over the world.
But the high-end procedures that make the Brigham and Mass. General so famous are not their bread and butter. Eighty-five percent of the time their doctors are performing the same less glamorous medicine that occupies most other hospitals: delivering babies, repairing hernias, treating pneumonia.
And it is there, in the workaday world of hospital care, that the hospitals’ reputation for unmatched excellence fades – and with it much of the rationale for the higher payments they receive for such treatments. The growing, if still inadequate, body of data available about hospital quality paints a fairly consistent picture of the care at the Brigham and Mass. General: often good, but rarely extraordinary, and sometimes inferior to the care available at other hospitals.