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The Dartmouth Atlas Project examines patterns of health care delivery and practice across the United States and evaluates the quality of health care Americans receive. The Atlas was launched in 1996, building on research methodology pioneered by Dr. John Wennberg. The research has revealed striking variations in the amount of health care delivered among hospital referral regions (HRRs), showing that in health care, geography can be destiny. The amount of care consumed by Americans is highly dependent on where they live, based on the capacity of their local health care system and on the practice styles of local physicians. This is true not only across states and regions, but among hospitals within individual states and cities.

In studying Medicare data , Atlas researchers have documented that more care does not necessarily mean better care. In fact, more hospitalizations and more procedures among similar populations can result in higher mortality than for populations that received more conservative care.

The disparities in care - seen across demographic groups as well as across regions - raise obvious concerns about the quality of care delivered and the evidence on which health care decisions are based. But they also represent billions of dollars in wasteful and unnecessary spending. Past editions of the Atlas have shown that the U.S. could lower health care costs substantially if the highest intensity hospitals adopted the practices of the nation's best performing hospitals.

This web site has been designed to provide an easy way for you to find data and reference materials to support your reporting on the crisis in U.S. health care in general and the Dartmouth Atlas in particular. The data reports provided by region, hospital and topic will help you construct your own data sets and compare hospitals, cities, and regions relevant to you. You can also view articles previously written about the Atlas project. Answers to many of your questions may also be available on one of our Key Issues or Frequently Asked Questions pages. Responses to some criticisms of Dartmouth Atlas data can be found on our Reflections on Variation page. A Q&A with Dr. Wennberg is also available for background information. For additional information, you can contact Eva Fowler at MSL Washington DC: (202) 261-2868.




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The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care is based at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and is supported by a coalition of funders led by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, including the WellPoint Foundation, the United Health Foundation, the California HealthCare Foundation, and the Charles H. Hood Foundation.