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

 
 

Data Gumbo, founded and led by Andrew Bruce, has announced its latest funding. Photo courtesy of Data Gumbo

A Houston-based tech company has announced another round of funding to support its blockchain network growth as well as to establish a presence in the Middle East.

Data Gumbo has closed its series B funding round totaling $7.7 million with follow-on investments led by Equinor Ventures. The round includes participation from Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures and Bay Area and Houston-based venture firm L37. The round's first close was announced in September 2020 at $4 million. The additional funds to close the Series B will be used to scale Data Gumbo to serve demand for GumboNetâ„¢ and GumboNetâ„¢ ESG. Additionally, Data Gumbo plans to establish a presence in the Middle East to cover expected demand growth in the region.

"The successful close of our series B is continued proof of the efficacy and booming interest in our ability to capture critical cost savings, deliver trust and provide transparency across commercial relationships," says Andrew Bruce, founder and CEO of Data Gumbo, in a news release. "Compounded by the growing demand for transparent, accurate sustainability data and the launch of our automated ESG measurement solution, GumboNetâ„¢ ESG, Data Gumbo's trajectory is well-positioned to serve our growing customer base by ensuring economic productivity and value. This infusion of capital will support our expansion efforts as we bring more international users to our network."

With this latest raise, Data Gumbo's total funding raised to date is $18.4 million.

"Data Gumbo's success is marked by a wide variety of business use cases and opportunities for expansion," says Bruce Niven, chief investment officer at Aramco Ventures, in the release. "Our continued investment is a testament to our continued support as the company attracts new customers, experiences further demand for its network and gains traction in new markets."

The company's technology features smart contract automation and execution, which reduces contract leakage, frees up working capital, enables real-time cash and financial management, and delivers provenance with unprecedented speed, accuracy, visibility and transparency, per the release.

"Data Gumbo is the market leader for smart contracts backed by blockchain, and the coming year will be a period of exponential growth for the company as they penetrate new industrial markets," says Kemal Farid, partner at L37, in the release. "We believe strongly that GumboNet will become the de facto network for smart contracts across industries for capturing value and solving enormous pain points in contractual relations. Additionally, as companies move to meet increasing sustainability measurement demands and ESG improvements, there is a huge growth path available for Data Gumbo with the launch of GumboNet ESG."

Earlier this year, the company announced its environmental, social and corporate governance tracking and reporting tool.

"Equinor's recent pilot at the Johan Sverdrup field has demonstrated that GumboNet can create strong value for the partnership," says Gareth Burns, head of Equinor Ventures, in the release. "Our follow-on investment confirms Equinor Ventures' confidence in Data Gumbo's solution for our company and the broader energy industry."

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