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What do we think of THIS?? An op-ed piece in the NY Times:Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland Athletics, suggests using baseball-style number-crunching to improve healthcare, with Newt Gingrich and John Kerry co-authoring the piece. Some snips:

“Remarkably, a doctor today can get more data on the starting third baseman on his fantasy baseball team than on the effectiveness of life-and-death medical procedures.”

“Franchises have used this data to answer some of the key questions in baseball: When is an attempted steal worth the risk? Whom should we draft, and in what order? Should we re-sign an aging star player and run the risk of paying for past performance rather than future results?

“Similarly, a health care system that is driven by robust comparative clinical evidence will save lives and money. …”

In my day job I do deep-dive statistical analysis of traffic to my employer’s web site. When we find an outreach method that works, we keep doing it; when we find something that doesn’t, we stop. Print advertising is dying (killing print publications) because it’s almost impossible for advertisers to identify how many people see an ad.

When my company uses print, we provide a real incentive offer and a link to a unique web page so we can see how many people show up – how effective the “treatment” was. Most advertisers don’t: they just “spend and pray.” And this Beane-Newt-Kerry column suggests that healthcare (at least US healthcare) is pretty similar. Little or no simple tracking of what works.

Ironically, there’s plenty of data from overseas about what does work: having a patient-centered medical home, with more primary care and less use of specialists.