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Price List Could Be A Radical Medical Tool

WBUR, August 23, 2011

A one-page list of 56 common medical tests and procedures could shake up the way doctors deliver care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Why? Because there's a price next to each item. Such lists are very unusual. Most doctors have no idea what they are spending when they order care for patients -- and finding out is an eye-opening experience. "I didn't realize that the prices were as high as they actually were, although I knew that there were some pretty extreme examples," said David Ives, a primary care doctor and the medical director of Affiliated Physicians Group, the largest group of private doctors that admits patients to Beth Israel. "One [price] that really pissed me off," Ives said, "was that when you send someone to an ear, nose and throat [specialist], something like 80 to 90 percent of the time they get a flexible scope of their sinuses." Ives says using this flexible cord with chip camera is rarely better than having the doctor look up a patient's nose or down their throat, but it costs 10 times more than the physical exam.