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Physician Checklist Zaps Wasteful Spending

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, October 27, 2011

Patient after patient asks for relief for sinusitis. Doctor after doctor gives them a prescription for medication—even though most infections are viral, not bacterial, needing no drugs to treat.

When prescribing statins for heart ailments or high cholesterol conditions, doctors sidestep less-expensive generic brands.

These and other wasted costs amount to nearly $6 billion, according to the National Physicians Alliance (NPA), a Washington, D.C.–based physician research group.

Doctors must reevaluate their procedures, eliminating or minimizing costs where possible, physicians said at a conference this month that focused on cost savings and improved patient care in Medicare in Washington D.C., sponsored by Health Affairs.

As the nation’s healthcare system moves toward value-based care, physicians have to step up efforts to reduce wasteful spending, which is often linked to improper patient care.

“It’s a responsibility of the professional to be decreasing costs, decreasing the amount of unnecessary care, wasted care, care that is not beneficial to patients, but adds to costs,” says Steven E. Weinberger, MD, executive vice president and CEO of the American College of Physicians.

Over the last few years, more physicians and hospitals have been adopting care checklists, not only to ensure proper procedures but also to reduce duplication of services and errors. A speaker at this week’s Medical Group Management Association in Las Vegas, for instance, urged physicians to adopt checklists to become more efficient. The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore has saved $2 million with a five-item checklist that reminds hospital personnel to first wash their hands. Weinberger says the ACP has initiated a “high-value, cost conscious care initiative” to identify areas of “overuse and misuse” to educate physicians, patients, and medical trainees. He also calls for a “national, multistakeholder initiative to reduce marginal and effective care.”

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2 comments on "Physician Checklist Zaps Wasteful Spending"


Dr. Rob (10/27/2011 at 2:45 PM)
Unfortunately, much unnecessary care is driven by: 1.) patients wanting an "immediate" cure for their condition. IF they do not receive the treatment THEY think is required, from their Primary Care MD, they seek treatment elsewhere. Who will educate the consumer, when they are "educated by the media" to make their own informed decisions ? 2.) Many "wasteful" diagnostic test are a result of practicing "defensive medicine". Most MD's will be happy to stop ordering these tests when plaintiff attorney's, and their "expert witnesses" stop referring to them as "standards of care" in lawsuits. Who will educate them, and assume the liability?

Karyn (10/27/2011 at 2:25 PM)
Nice job. How about not giving out controlled substances like candy. Lots of post op patients get 30 - 60 or more Vicodin, Oxycontin, etc and use between 5 and 7. Some of the problem is the 3rd party payors only allow for the docs to write a minimum of 30. This leads to over use. abuse and how to dispose of what was not used. How about a smaller amount with a refill.