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The dangers of Big Data in health care

Medicare In Spotlight

Pulmonologist Dr. Loyd Whitley (R) examines patient Robbie Roach, 72, during an office visit January 29, 2003 in Bossier City, Louisiana

Imagine you had access to your doctors' vital statistics.  For example, how much they charged Medicare for a certain procedure -- kind of like statistics on baseball players. Such data was recently released by the federal government

Jean Mitchell, who teaches public policy at Georgetown, says for many doctors, "Their patients will be quite surprised by how much money they’re making, and the volume of procedures performed." Mitchell also says the new data could spotlight conflicts of interest, like when a doctor who owns an MRI machine orders lots of MRIs. 

But some doctors worry the new information will be taken out of context -- and they point out that Medicare patients need lots of tests: 

"Sixty percent of all Medicare patients actually have three or more medical conditions. Our patients are extremely complex" Dr. Reid Blackwelder,  president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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