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Doctors don’t care about patients’ wallets, some order more tests despite high cost, studies claim

PHOTO: transequality.org


Doctors are not working with people’s budget in mind, new studies have revealed.Experts previously thought that if doctors were shown the cost of tests they ordered for patients, the number and spending on these tests would decrease.

However, a new study found that physicians don’t change their ordering behaviour after seeing the price tag of an exam.Some physicians even increased the number of tests they ordered after seeing the cost, according to a separate study. These findings have experts divided if doctors should be better informed of prices or if they should focus on the value of the treatment.

The study was published by JAMA Internal Medicine and examined the practice of doctors at three Pennsylvania hospitals for a full year. Doctors were divided into two groups, one in which Medicare allowable fees that would be reimbursed to the hospital could be seen and the other group saw no price. The study concluded there was no significant difference in physicians knowing the cost of the test and those who did not know. But a similar study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics in February, tested the same theory with pediatric-focused clinicians and adult-oriented clinicians.

While the pediatric-focused doctors had no change in the rate they ordered imaging studies and procedures, there was a ‘significantly higher’ rate for orders placed by adult-focused doctors.

Previous studies have shown that a majority of physicians are unaware of the expensive treatments, drugs and medicine they prescribe to patients.

A Canadian study published in 2007 concluded doctors were ignorant of costs and had a ‘tendency to underestimate the price of expensive drugs’.
Recently, more researchers have been highlighting deficiencies in health care quality, such as unnecessary tests and procedures that cause patient harm, medical errors bred by disjointed or fragmented care and disparities in service distribution.


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