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Medical Procedures Vary By Region, According to New Study

May 21, 2013

A map from a new study by the California Healthcare Foundation displays the geographic disparities in certain medical procedures, in this case, induced deliveries.

Depending on where they practice, doctors in different parts of California are more likely to recommend certain procedures. It’s a phenomenon called “variance.” A study from The California Healthcare Foundation shows it’s a consideration both patients and physicians should be aware of. The Foundation’s Maribeth Shannon says doctors might not realize what they’re doing.

“Letting physicians see that they’re prescribing this particular treatment at a much higher rate than a physician in another area for, really, patients with the same level of illness, I think that’s an important lesson for them,” says Shannon.

Among the study’s findings, women in Indio are 247 percent more likely than the state average to receive a bilateral mastectomy. Men living in Tracy are nearly 480 percent more likely to receive internal radiation for prostate cancer.  Shannon says the study controlled for factors like population income, education and insurance status. 

Residents of Hanford were 383 percent more likely than the average Californian to undergo a procedure known as coronary angiography. The coronary angiography rates for residents of Tulare, Porterville and Corcoran were also over 300 percent higher than the state average. The data show that rates for other elective heart procedures in San Joaquin Valley communities were significantly higher than the state average. For angioplasty, the communities of Coalinga, Hanford, Visalia, Tulare, Corcoran and Porterville all showed rates around 250 percent higher than the state average. 

For induced labor deliveries, two Tulare county communities led the state with especially high rates. Porterville had a rate 388 percent higher than the average for California residents, with the nearby community of Lindsay at 336 percent.

Valley Public Radio News staff also contributed to this report.