The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2011
Making physicians aware of the costs of blood tests can lower a hospital's daily bill for those tests by as much 27%, a new study suggests. It is common practice at hospitals to test patients' blood every day and it is wasting money and time, according to the study's authors from the University of Miami and Brown University. The researchers started by monitoring the baseline daily per-patient cost for two common lab tests, complete blood count and total chemistry panel, among surgical patients at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence. Then they started a program of scripted weekly announcements to surgical house staff—the doctors-in-training who order the bulk of the tests—and their attending physicians, about the cost of the tests. At the beginning of the program, the daily cost per non-intensive care patient was $147.73. Over the 11 weeks of the study, that dipped as low as $108.11, in the eighth week. There were a couple of weeks where the cost of tests went up from the previous week, but those corresponded with a new influx of intern physicians, the authors write.