not what the doctor ordered

Report: Houston ranks among the worst cities for unnecessary medical treatments

Houston hospitals have been reported to have an excess of unnecessary health care tests and procedures. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Houston boasts of being home to the Texas Medical Center, the world's biggest medical complex. Yet Houston's medical community also holds a distinction that's hardly boast-worthy: It's the worst major metro area in Texas for unnecessary health care tests and procedures.

A study released May 4 by the Lown Institute, a health care think tank, shows hospitals in the Houston area collectively fare worse than their counterparts in Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin for overuse of tests and procedures that the institute says offer little to no benefit.

To come up with its ranking, the institute looked at Medicare data for more than 1 million tests and procedures performed at over 3,100 U.S. hospitals from 2016 to 2018. Among the overused tests and procedures identified in the study are hysterectomy for benign disease, placement of coronary stents for stable heart disease, and diagnostic tests like head imaging for fainting.

"Overuse in American hospitals is a pervasive problem that needs to be addressed," Dr. Vikas Saini, president of the Lown Institute, says in a news release. "Hospitals want to do better, and these objective measures of performance can help them move forward."

Hospitals in Texas ranked fourth worst among all the states for overuse of hospital tests and procedures, the institute says.

Among hospitals in the Houston area, Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital ranked worst for overuse of tests and procedures, preceded by Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital in Humble, OakBend Medical Center in Richmond, Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, and St. Luke's Health - The Woodlands Hospital, the study says.

At the other end of the spectrum, Houston's Doctors Hospital Tidwell ranks first among Houston-area hospitals for avoiding overuse of tests and procedures, followed by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Harris Health System, and HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake in Webster.

Estimates suggest that overuse of tests and procedures contributes $75.7 billion to $101.2 billion to wasted U.S. health care spending each year, according to a study published by the journal JAMA Open Health.

"Although clinicians are responsible for ordering tests and treatments, their practice patterns may be influenced by hospital policies and culture. Hospital-level interventions to reduce overuse exist, but to measure and compare their success, a hospital-level measure is required," the study says.

In 2017, a study appearing in the Journal of Hospital Medicine declared that overuse of medical services contributes to low-quality health care and high health care costs. It's estimated that 42 percent of Medicare patients, 15 percent of Medicaid patients, and 11 percent of traditionally insured patients are subjected to at least one overuse of medical services each year, according to an article published by the Journal of Health Affairs.

"We can leverage the circumstances created by the pandemic to advance our understanding of low-value care with the goal of better measurement, appreciation of its harms, and a deeper understanding of its drivers and determinants, so that interventions can be implemented," authors of the Journal of Health Affairs article wrote. "Low-value care harms patients; there has never been a better time to push toward eliminating hurtful practices."

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Building Houston

 
 

You can now hop online and invest in this promising cell therapy startup. Photo via Getty Images

A clinical-stage company headquartered in Houston has opened an online funding campaign.

FibroBiologics, which is developing fibroblast cell-based therapeutics for chronic diseases, launched a campaign with equity crowdfunding platform StartEngine. The platform lets anyone — regardless of their net worth or income level — to invest in securities issued by startups.

The funding, according to a press release, will be used to support ongoing operations of Fibrobiologics and advance its clinical programs in multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, wound care, extension of life, and cancer.

"We're excited to partner with StartEngine on this campaign. StartEngine has over 600,000 investors as part of their community and has raised over half a billion dollars for its clients," says FibroBiologics' Founder and CEO Pete O'Heeron, in the release.

"This is an exciting time at FibroBiologics as we continue progressing our clinical pipeline and developing innovative therapies to treat chronic diseases," he continues. "This new funding will fuel our growth in the lab and bring us one step closer to commercialization."

The campaign, launched this week, already has over 100 investors, at the time of publication, and has raised nearly $2 million, according to the page. The minimum investment is set at around $500, and the company's indicated valuation is $252.57 million.

In 2021, FibroBiologics announced its intention of going public. Last year, O'Heeron told InnovationMap on the Houston Innovators Podcast of the company's growth plans as well as the specifics of the technology.

Only two types of cells — stem cells and fibroblasts — can be used in cell therapy for a regenerative treatment, which is when specialists take healthy cells from a patient and inject them into a part of the body that needs it the most. As O'Heeron explains in the podcast, fibroblasts can do it more effectively and cheaper than stem cells.

"(Fibroblasts) can essentially do everything a stem cell can do, only they can do it better," says O'Heeron. "We've done tests in the lab and we've seen them outperform stem cells by a low of 50 percent to a high of about 220 percent on different disease paths."


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