Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) — When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was being drafted, the wonks behind it were excited by, among other things, the opportunity to experiment with new ways to deliver services more cheaply and effectively. After all, isn't that what we all want — cheaper, better health care?

So the law contained provisions that were supposed to help us get there by trying new approaches and seeing what worked. Two of them hit the news this past weekend: the accountable-care organization provisions, which were supposed to achieve better and cheaper health care through consolidating and coordinating care, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Innovation Center, which runs pilot projects on delivery system reform. But two articles, one in the New York Times and the other in the Washington Post, suggest that the administration's approach to data analysis may be too weak to get good results from these experiments.

The Innovation Center, for example, has unaccountably decided not to use its resources for randomized controlled trials, writes Gina Kolata:

The studies that are regarded as the most reliable randomly assign people or institutions to participate in a program or to go on as usual, and then compare outcomes for the two groups to see if the intervention had an effect.

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