Informing docs about lab costs can reduce unnecessary tests

Simply reminding doctors how much money blood tests cost could cut back unnecessary medical spending and save hospitals thousands of dollars, concludes a new study in the journal Archives of Surgery.

"The use of laboratory tests has been rapidly increasing over the past few decades to the point where phlebotomy is a substantial proportion of hospital expenditure, and much of it is unwarranted," wrote the study's authors, Dr. Elizabeth A. Stuebing of the University of Miami, and Dr. Thomas J. Miner of Brown University in Providence, R.I., notes HealthDay News.

But by sending weekly reports to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence's surgical staff about the costs of routine blood work, doctors ordered less blood tests, which led to a 27 percent drop in the hospital's daily patient phlebotomy expenses.

By the end of the 11-week study, Rhode Island Hospital saved a total $54,967.

Applying this approach of providing doctors cost information for all types of routine tests and treatments could reduce the volume of redundant and unnecessary medical care and generate significant savings industry-wide.

"This study successfully showed that even without technical and time-consuming interventions, test ordering behavior can be greatly reduced by making healthcare providers aware of costs," notes Dr. Stuebing.

For more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- here's the HealthDay News article
- check out the study abstract