A cost-control lesson from an unlikely source

By Raynard S. Kingston In the struggle to find ways to reduce the costs of a college education, one of the greatest challenges has been understanding the drivers of costs and their value in terms of quality and outcomes. Leaders in higher education—those of us in the middle of the cost debates and the ones most able to take direct action at our institutions—must push harder for better data and analysis on costs, quality, and, ultimately, student outcomes. One way to begin teasing apart the nuances of the cost issue may come from the world of health care. In 1973, Science published a seminal paper about the problem of health-care costs, noting a simple finding: Health-care expenditures and the use of certain health-care services varied significantly across parts of Vermont, with no evidence of causes other than different practice styles. Because many of the areas’ populations were similar, it seemed clear that differences in health-care needs were not driving the differences in costs. That study helped to accelerate the growth of the entire field of health-services and health-economics research in the United States, including the study of quality as a health-care measure and outcome, by illustrating the potentially huge expenditures wasted on services that did not have a clear benefit to the nation’s health. That still-growing body of research ultimately became the basis for a range of policy strategies to reduce waste and improve the quality of health care. Read the entire article here: http://chronicle.com/article/A-Cost-Control-Lesson-From-an/145321/

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