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When Physicians See Costs, They Act Like Consumers

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, April 16, 2013

Healthcare consumers who are unaware of the varying costs of routine medical tests may take solace in knowing that many physicians don't either.

"Doctors have been shielded from costs for generations," says Leonard S. Feldman, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

"As these systems were developing people thought it was inappropriate to expose the physicians to while they were making decisions about care. Most physicians have no idea what the costs are for whatever they're prescribing. We have never really certainly competed with one another on a regular basis based on price."

Feldman says hospitals keep patients and doctors in the dark on the cost of medical services, which contributes to the soaring cost of healthcare in the United States. With those costs poised to consume about 20% of the national economy, Feldman doctors will have to become more cost savvy.

"At this juncture in society and the world we live in, we can't afford that luxury anymore of taking into consideration these important issues," he says.

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2 comments on "When Physicians See Costs, They Act Like Consumers"


Tubor Rathke (4/16/2013 at 1:26 PM)
The public has been bamboozled into believing that doctors order extra tests, driving up the cost of healthcare, because they fear malpractice lawsuits. Here is proof that doctors do extra testing because it's faster, more accurate, and easier than trying to diagnosis using a physical exam alone and that, when they don't have to worry about costs, they don't worry about costs.

flpoggio (4/16/2013 at 10:33 AM)
Nothing new here. This study has been done a thousand times. When I was the CFO at Univ of Wisconsin in 1977 we did this very same project, and got the same results. But here's what we learned afer six months. The test order volumes fall off for about three months, then the docs get conditioned to it, rationalize why the tests are necessary, and in about 6 months the volume is back where it was. One way they rationalize it is saying "hey, the patient isn't paying for it, the einsurance company is or Medicare, so it's little or no cost to the patient". The only real change that happens that sticks is when the doc has some skin in the game, ala Mayo (or ACO).