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Educating doctors about the cost of medical care

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Try to find out how much it actually costs to get an MRI at the local hospital and the first thing you’ll discover is that it’s usually not as simple as getting someone to check a list.  But medical costs are not just hidden from consumers.  The cost of most healthcare is hidden from doctors as well as patients.  Much of the new healthcare regulations were created to shine a light on those costs under the belief that people would make better choices about their care if they knew the costs.  But that emphasis has been toward educating the consumer.

Not much has been done about educating the professional.  A clinical trial at Johns Hopkins Hospital found that when doctors and other medical professionals knew the costs of the tests that they ordered that there was a “modest decrease” in the number of tests ordered.  The study reported in the online edition of the JAMA Internal Medicine looked at all providers who were authorized to order tests at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.  When providers were given the additional information, there was an 8.59 percent decrease in tests being ordered.

“Our findings suggest that simply displaying the Medicare allowable fee of diagnostic laboratory tests at the time of order entry can affect physician ordering behavior, even without any educational interventions,” the authors concluded. “Although the financial impact is modest, our study offers evidence that presenting providers with associated test fees as they order is a simple and unobtrusive way to alter behavior.” Here’s the article from

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