A Dartmouth research study finds wide geographic variation in the rates at which Medicare patients receive elective surgeries in Minnesota.
In one example, the study found patients with gallstones who live in Wadena are three times more likely to have their gall bladders removed than if they live Minneapolis.
The study's lead author, Shannon Brownlee says the report shows there isn't always one solution to a medical problem.
"It's also intended to help patients understand that different doctors have different opinions about the best way to treat a given condition," Brownlee said. "So in the end, the patient and the doctor should choose together what's best for that individual patient."
The report places much of the blame for the variations on physicians failing to fully take patient preferences into account. But Minnesota Medical Association President, Dr. Patricia Lindholm said the report lacks the data to support that conclusion.
"If it is doctor-centric, then there's no way to find that out unless you dig down into the data and actually interview the patients and see what they were presented with as far as alternatives and how pleased they were with their care," she said.
The report in Minnesota is the first of a series studying individual states and regions. The study also looked at rates for surgeries that included mastectomy for breast cancer, back surgery, and replacement of knees and hips.