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When Physicians See Costs, They Act Like Consumers

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, April 16, 2013

Feldman says he believes that the cost savings found in his study could be replicated at other hospitals.

"If I were a CEO that had a provider order entry system that allowed me to easily show these costs I would certainly start showing the cost of a lot of our relatively inexpensive but frequently ordered tests. You are better off if you are reminded of it right when you need it. That was part of the power," he says.

"There are lots of studies out there where people have gone on with big educational efforts and the problem is they require a lot of effort from the faculty and they are quickly forgotten if they're not brought up on a regular basis," he says. "The beauty of ours was that it was a very cost-effective way of providing this information on a continual basis."

At the same time, Feldman says physicians do not need to be aware of the cost of every test or professional service they provide.

"I am worried about people getting cost overload," he says. "But for the tests that I know that my docs are ordering every day and maybe on a repeat basis… if I had the opportunity that would be where I would try to make the biggest impact."


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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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).