Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy




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Now showing 1 - 10 of 13
  • Publication
    Patterns of Cost for Patients Dying in the Intensive Care Unit and Implications for Cost Savings of Palliative Care Interventions.
    (2016-11-01) Khandelwal, Nita; Benkeser, David; Coe, Norma B; Engelberg, Ruth A; Teno, Joan M; Curtis, J Randall
    BACKGROUND: Terminal intensive care unit (ICU) stays represent an important target to increase value of care. OBJECTIVE: To characterize patterns of daily costs of ICU care at the end of life and, based on these patterns, examine the role for palliative care interventions in enhancing value. DESIGN: Secondary analysis of an intervention study to improve quality of care for critically ill patients. SETTING/PATIENTS: 572 patients who died in the ICU between 2003 and 2005 at a Level-1 trauma center. METHODS: Data were linked with hospital financial records. Costs were categorized into direct fixed, direct variable, and indirect costs. Patterns of daily costs were explored using generalized estimating equations stratified by length of stay, cause of death, ICU type, and insurance status. Estimates from the literature of effects of palliative care interventions on ICU utilization were used to simulate potential cost savings under different time horizons and reimbursement models. MAIN RESULTS: Mean cost for a terminal ICU stay was 39.3K ± 45.1K. Direct fixed costs represented 45% of total hospital costs, direct variable costs 20%, and indirect costs 34%. Day of admission was most expensive (mean 9.6K ± 7.6K); average cost for subsequent days was 4.8K ± 3.4K and stable over time and patient characteristics. CONCLUSIONS: Terminal ICU stays display consistent cost patterns across patient characteristics. Savings can be realized with interventions that align care with patient preferences, helping to prevent unwanted ICU utilization at end of life. Cost modeling suggests that implications vary depending on time horizon and reimbursement models.
  • Publication
    Retirement Effects on Health in Europe
    (2011-01-01) Coe, Norma B; Zamarro, Gema
    What are the health impacts of retirement? As talk of raising retirement ages in pensions and social security schemes continues around the world, it is important to know both the costs and benefits for the individual, as well as the governments' budgets. In this paper we use the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) dataset to address this question in a multi-country setting. We use country-specific early and full retirement ages as instruments for retirement behavior. These statutory retirement ages clearly induce retirement, but are not related to an individual's health. Exploiting the discontinuities in retirement behavior across countries, we find significant evidence that retirement has a health-preserving effect on overall general health. Our estimates indicate that retirement leads to a 35 percent decrease in the probability of reporting to be in fair, bad, or very bad health, and an almost one standard deviation improvement in the health index. While the self-reported health seems to be a temporary impact, the health index indicates there are long-lasting health differences.
  • Publication
    Evaluating the Economic Impact of Palliative and End-of-Life Care Interventions on Intensive Care Unit Utilization and Costs from the Hospital and Healthcare System Perspective.
    (2017-12-01) Khandelwal, Nita; Brumback, Lyndia C; Halpern, Scott D; Coe, Norma B; Brumback, Babette; Curtis, J Randall
    Purpose of report: Understanding the impact of palliative care interventions on intensive care unit (ICU) costs and utilization is critical for demonstrating the value of palliative care. Performing these economic assessments, however, can be challenging. The purpose of this special report is to highlight and discuss important considerations when assessing ICU utilization and costs from the hospital perspective, with the goal of providing recommendations on methods to consider for future analyses. FINDINGS: ICU length of stay (LOS) and associated costs of care are common and important outcome measures, but must be analyzed properly to yield valid conclusions. There is significant variation in costs by day of stay in the ICU with only modest differences between an ICU day at the end of a stay and the first day on the acute care floor; this variation must be appropriately accounted for analytically. Furthermore, reporting direct variable costs, in addition to total ICU costs, is needed to understand short-term and long-term impact of a reduction in LOS. Importantly, incentives for the hospital to realize savings vary depending on reimbursement policies. SUMMARY: ICU utilization and costs are common outcomes in studies evaluating palliative care interventions. Accurate estimation and interpretation are key to understanding the economic implications of palliative care interventions.
  • Publication
    A Pragmatic Analysis of the Regulation of Consumer Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (TDCS) Devices in the United States
    (2015-10-01) Wexler, Anna
    Several recent articles have called for the regulation of consumer transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) devices, which provide low levels of electrical current to the brain. However, most of the discussion to-date has focused on ethical or normative considerations; there has been a notable absence of scholarship regarding the actual legal framework in the United States. This article aims to fill that gap by providing a pragmatic analysis of the consumer tDCS market and relevant laws and regulations. In the five main sections of this manuscript, I take into account (a) the history of the do-it-yourself tDCS movement and the subsequent emergence of direct-to-consumer devices; (b) the statutory language of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and how the definition of a medical device—which focuses on the intended use of the device rather than its mechanism of action—is of paramount importance for discussions of consumer tDCS device regulation; (c) how both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and courts have understood the FDA's jurisdiction over medical devices in cases where the meaning of ‘intended use’ has been challenged; (d) an analysis of consumer tDCS regulatory enforcement action to-date; and (e) the multiple US authorities, other than the FDA, that can regulate consumer brain stimulation devices. Taken together, this paper demonstrates that rather than a ‘regulatory gap,’ there are multiple, distinct pathways by which consumer tDCS can be regulated in the United States.
  • Publication
    Long-Term Care Insurance: Does Experience Matter?
    (2015-03-01) Coe, Norma B; Skira, Meghan M; Van Houtven, Courtney Harold
    We examine whether long-term care (LTC) experience helps explain the low demand for long-term care insurance (LTCI). We test if expectations about future informal care receipt, expectations about inheritance receipt, and LTCI purchase decisions vary between individuals whose parents or in-laws have used LTC versus those who have not. We find parental use of a nursing home decreases expectations that one's children will provide informal care, consistent with the demonstration effect. Nursing home use by in-laws does not have the same impact, suggesting that individuals are responding to information gained about their own aging trajectory. Nursing home use by either a parent or in-law increases LTCI purchase probability by 0.8 percentage points, with no significant difference in response between parents' and in-laws' use. The estimated increase in purchase probability from experience with LTC is about half the previously estimated increase from tax policy-induced price decreases.
  • Publication
    How Do People With Disabilities Cope While Waiting for Disability Insurance Benefits?
    (2014-01-01) Coe, Norma B; Lindner, Stephan; Wong, Kendrew; Yanyuan Wu, April
    Disability Insurance waiting time varies from a few months to several years. We estimate the causal effect of longer waiting times on the use of five financial coping strategies. We find that SNAP benefits are the most responsive to longer waiting times. Moreover, while spousal employment is not responsive to longer wait times, spousal employment leads to longer waiting times, presumably because these applicants are more able to appeal. Together, these results suggest that coping strategies are used to both help applicants during the wait time and to extend the waiting time and increase their probability of success.
  • Publication
    Family Structure and Long-Term Care Insurance Purchase
    (2015-03-01) Van Houtven, Courtney Harold; Coe, Norma B; Konetzka, R Tamara
    While it has long been assumed that family structure and potential sources of informal care play a large role in the purchase decisions for long-term care insurance (LTCI), current empirical evidence is inconclusive. Our study examines the relationship between family structure and LTCI purchase and addresses several major limitations of the prior literature by using a long panel of data and considering modern family relationships, such as the presence of stepchildren. We find that family structure characteristics from one's own generation, particularly about one's spouse, are associated with purchase, but that few family structure attributes from the younger generation have an influence. Family factors that may indicate future caregiver supply are negatively associated with purchase: having a coresidential child, signaling close proximity, and having a currently working spouse, signaling a healthy and able spouse, that long-term care planning has not occurred yet or that there is less need for asset protection afforded by LTCI. Dynamic factors, such as increasing wealth or turning 65, are associated with higher likelihood of LTCI purchase.
  • Publication
    Seeding Controversy: Did Israel Invent the Cherry Tomato?
    (2016-01-01) Wexler, Anna
    This research brief explores the controversial history of the cherry tomato and analyzes its role in the construction of Israel's national identity. Since 2003, mentions of Israel having “invented” the cherry tomato have appeared in both Israeli and international media. However, such claims have sparked outrage on various blogs and websites, and questions have been raised about the veracity of Israel's claims—as well as about the true origin of the cherry tomato. I explore the history of the cherry tomato, tracing mentions of it from the Renaissance period to modern times. In addition, I clarify the assertions of Israeli scientists credited with the development of the cherry tomato—that their research transformed the cherry tomato into a commodity in the 1980s. Finally, I discuss the cherry tomato claim in light of the Israeli government's hasbara (Hebrew for “explanation”) efforts, which attempt to counter negative images of Israel in the international press. While much previous scholarship on food and nationalism has focused on the relationship between the cultivation, preparation, or consumption of a food and the construction of a national identity, the present work focuses on the relationship between the food's invention narrative and national identity. By transforming the cherry tomato into an embodiment of technological innovation, I argue that hasbara separates the cherry tomato from its essence as a food and co-opts it into a symbol of modernity and progress.
  • Publication
    Potential Influence of Advance Care Planning and Palliative Care Consultation on ICU Costs for Patients With Chronic and Serious Illness.
    (2016-08-01) Khandelwal, Nita; Benkeser, David C; Coe, Norma B; Curtis, J Randall
    OBJECTIVES: To estimate the potential ICU-related cost savings if in-hospital advance care planning and ICU-based palliative care consultation became standard of care for patients with chronic and serious illness. DESIGN AND SETTING: Decision analysis using literature estimates and inpatient administrative data from Premier. PATIENTS: Patients with chronic, life-limiting illness admitted to a hospital within the Premier network. INTERVENTIONS: None. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Using Premier data (2008-2012), ICU resource utilization and costs were tracked over a 1-year time horizon for 2,097,563 patients with chronic life-limiting illness. Using a Markov microsimulation model, we explored the potential cost savings from the hospital system perspective under a variety of scenarios by varying the interventions' efficacies and availabilities. Of 2,097,563 patients, 657,825 (31%) used the ICU during the 1-year time horizon; mean ICU spending per patient was 11.3k (SD, 17.6k). In the base-case analysis, if in-hospital advance care planning and ICU-based palliative care consultation were systematically provided, we estimated a mean reduction in ICU costs of 2.8k (SD, 14.5k) per patient and an ICU cost saving of 25%. Among the simulated patients who used the ICU, the receipt of both interventions could have resulted in ICU cost savings of 1.9 billion, representing a 6% reduction in total hospital costs for these patients. CONCLUSIONS: In-hospital advance care planning and palliative care consultation have the potential to result in significant cost savings. Studies are needed to confirm these findings, but our results provide guidance for hospitals and policymakers.
  • Publication
    The Social Context of “Do-It-Yourself” Brain Stimulation: Neurohackers, Biohackers, and Lifehackers
    (2017-05-01) Wexler, Anna
    The “do-it-yourself” (DIY) brain stimulation movement began in earnest in late 2011, when lay individuals began building stimulation devices and applying low levels of electricity to their heads for self-improvement purposes. To date, scholarship on the home use of brain stimulation has focused on characterizing the practices of users via quantitative and qualitative studies, and on analyzing related ethical and regulatory issues. In this perspective piece, however, I take the opposite approach: rather than viewing the home use of brain stimulation on its own, I argue that it must be understood within the context of other DIY and citizen science movements. Seen in this light, the home use of brain stimulation is only a small part of the “neurohacking” movement, which is comprised of individuals attempting to optimize their brains to achieve enhanced performance. Neurohacking itself is an offshoot of the “life hacking” (or “quantified self”) movement, in which individuals self-track minute aspects of their daily lives in order to enhance productivity or performance. Additionally, the home or DIY use of brain stimulation is in many ways parallel to the DIY Biology (or “biohacking”) movement, which seeks to democratize tools of scientific experimentation. Here, I describe the place of the home use of brain stimulation with regard to neurohackers, lifehackers, and biohackers, and suggest that a policy approach for the home use of brain stimulation should have an appreciation both of individual motivations as well as the broader social context of the movement itself.