How do we improve the value of care delivered in primary care? with John Mafi

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All of us like to think that we provide high-value care for our patients; but the truth is, just like the rest of the health care system, primary care provides a lot of low value care too – and we drive a lot of overuse. John Mafi joins us this week to talk about his leading research into these thorny, complex issues.

We talk about the definitions of high-value and low value care, his 2016 study in Annals of Internal Medicine examining rates of high and low value care among physicians, NPs, and PAs in the primary care setting, how practice setting may affect the delivery of high and low value care, and the essential truth that there is no free lunch in trying to solve some of the challenges in fixing primary care in the US. You can find Shah et al, which John referenced here; a recent study relevant to our conversation by Hong et al looking at clinician characteristics and frequent ordering of low-value imaging studies; and an extremely important new paper that John published recently in Health Affairs looking at the the impact of low-cost, high-volume studies on unnecessary health spending.

A little bit more about our guest:  John N. Mafi, MD, MPH is an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA where he also practices and teaches. He also serves as an Affiliated Natural Scientist in Health Policy at RAND Corporation. Dr. Mafi trained in internal medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 2012, where he also served as Chief Medical Resident and completed the Harvard Medical School Fellowship in General Internal Medicine and Primary Care in 2015. Dr. Mafi’s research focuses on quality and value measurement and how electronic health records can improve the value of care.

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 This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.