NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Estimating the Value Added of Attending Physicians on Patient Outcomes

Jason M. Fletcher, Leora I. Horwitz, Elizabeth Bradley

NBER Working Paper No. 20534
Issued in October 2014
NBER Program(s):Health Care Program, Health Economics Program

Despite increasing calls for value-based payments, existing methodologies for determining physicians' "value added" to patient health outcomes have important limitations. We incorporate methods from the value added literature in education research into a health care setting to present the first value added estimates of health care providers in the literature. Like teacher value added measures that calculate student test score gains, we estimate physician value added based on changes in health status during the course of a hospitalization. We then tie our measures of physician value added to patient outcomes, including length of hospital stay, total charges, health status at discharge, and readmission. The estimated value added varied substantially across physicians and was highly stable for individual physicians. Patients of physicians in the 75th versus 25th percentile of value added had, on average, shorter length of stay (4.76 vs 5.08 days), lower total costs ($17,811 vs $19,822) and higher discharge health status (8% of a standard deviation). Our findings provide evidence to support a new method of determining physician value added in the context of inpatient care that could have wide applicability across health care setting and in estimating value added of other health care providers (nurses, staff, etc).

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20534

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