Large, multispecialty group practices provide higher quality care at lower annual cost

It has been theorized that large, multispecialty group practices provide higher-quality care at lower costs than small group practices.

A study in Health Affairs examined this theory, comparing the costs and quality of care provided to Medicare patients in twenty-two health care markets by physicians who did and did not work within large multispecialty group practices affiliated with the Council of Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP).

After adjustment for patient factors, in most markets CAPP group physicians provided higher quality care at a 3.6% ($272 per patient) lower annual cost. The authors estimate that if all physicians could perform at this level, Medicare would save about $15 billion a year.

The study did have limitations.  Although a correction for patient characteristics was made, the CAPP groups tended to care for patients who were younger, lived in more affluent neighborhoods, had less complex illnesses, and relied less on Medicaid. These factors could influence the ability of these patients to obtain preventive services.

(Sources: Today’s News from Partners HealthCare, June 2, 2010; Health Affairs, http://content.healthaffairs.org, June 9, 2010)