For many medical societies, money is no object

Many medical societies don't often consider costs when they're developing their treatment guidelines for specific conditions, despite increasing concerns about the rising cost of healthcare, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers aimed to evaluate how medical societies consider cost with clinical guidance documents and methodological statements produced between 2008 and 2012 by 40 of the largest physician specialty societies in the U.S.

The clinical guidance documents indicated 57 percent of physician societies explicitly integrated costs, 13 percent considered costs, 10 percent intentionally excluded costs, and six percent didn't mention costs at all.

Of those societies that explicitly integrated costs, 53 percent had a formal system for doing so and 47 percent had an inconsistent system.

The most common money-saving suggestion (36 percent) was to use a certain medical device because of effectiveness and lower cost.

"I think it's encouraging the societies are now starting to include costs into their guidelines," Jennifer Schwartz, M.D., research fellow at the National Institutes of Health, said. "And when they decide not to, I think it's important to be transparent about that," Reuters Health reported.

The authors agreed that discussing cost isn't about rationing; rather, it's about finding which treatments are the best value.

The study concluded that just slightly more than half of the largest US physician societies "explicitly consider costs in developing their clinical guidance documents; among these, approximately half use an explicit mechanism for integrating costs into the strength of recommendations," and that many societies are vague in their approach.

"Physician specialty societies should demonstrate greater transparency and rigor in their approach to cost consideration in documents meant to influence care decisions," the study's authors wrote.

To learn more:
- read the study and abstract
- read the Reuters Health article

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