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Productivity Spillovers in Health Care: Evidence from the Treatment of Heart Attacks

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  • Amitabh Chandra
  • Douglas O. Staiger

Abstract

A large literature in medicine documents variation across areas in the use of surgical treatments that is unrelated to outcomes. Observers of this phenomenon have invoked “flat of the curve medicine†to explain it and have advocated for reductions in spending in high-use areas. In contrast, we develop a simple Roy model of patient treatment choice with productivity spillovers that can generate the empirical facts. Our model predicts that high-use areas will have higher returns to surgery, better outcomes among patients most appropriate for surgery, and worse outcomes among patients least appropriate for surgery, while displaying no relationship between treatment intensity and overall outcomes. Using data on treatments for heart attacks, we find strong empirical support for these and other predictions of our model and reject alternative explanations such as “flat of the curve medicine†or supplier-induced demand for geographic variation in medical care.

Suggested Citation

  • Amitabh Chandra & Douglas O. Staiger, 2007. "Productivity Spillovers in Health Care: Evidence from the Treatment of Heart Attacks," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 103-140.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:115:y:2007:p:103-140
    DOI: 10.1086/512249
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/512249
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Arthur, W Brian, 1989. "Competing Technologies, Increasing Returns, and Lock-In by Historical Events," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(394), pages 116-131, March.
    2. Goolsbee, Austan & Klenow, Peter J, 2002. "Evidence on Learning and Network Externalities in the Diffusion of Home Computers," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 317-343, October.
    3. Wagner, Alfred, 1891. "Marshall's Principles of Economics," History of Economic Thought Articles, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 5, pages 319-338.
    4. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1985. "Network Externalities, Competition, and Compatibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 424-440, June.
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