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Reporter investigates high rates of elective procedures

Emily Bazar
Emily Bazar

One of the goals of the health reform law is to change the payment incentives to get rid of some of the unnecessary or overly aggressive care This is not rationing, proponents point out, but it is getting patients the care they need without getting them the care they don't need, whichoften carries risks, side effects and big medical bills. That's been part of the message from the Dartmouth Atlas.

Reporter Emily Bazar, of the California Health Care Foundation Center for Health Reporting, found some extemely high rates of elective heart surgery in one California community. She took data availability in California, some of the Dartmouth framework, and her own reporting and endeavored to reveal the meaning behind some surprising statistics: Citizens in one Central Valley town were five times to six times more likely to undergo elective heart surgery than other Californians.

Bazar analyzed the study to determine if external factors influenced the data, or if Clearlake residents were really receiving unnecessary (and expensive) operations.

We asked Bazar to share her experiences reporting on this data and to shed light on how journalists can transform statistics into a compelling story. While Bazar’s investigation is based on California data, all or nearly all states collect similar data that can be analyzed. Here is what Bazar learned from reporting this story.

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