Docs struggle to understand role of cost in healthcare

Although doctors know they need to help control healthcare costs, they don't know how to do it, according to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care.

"The thing that strikes me the most about this study is that over 90 percent of physicians said they were interested in reducing unnecessary cost, but only a third said they understood the role of cost in the system," Thomas Sequist, M.D., chief quality and safety officer at Boston's Partners HealthCare and a co-author of the study, told WBUR.

Designed to assess doctors' understanding of the "Choosing Widely" initiative, the study by Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice researchers was conducted among 584 doctors at Atrius Health, the largest ambulatory care provider in Massachusetts.  

Additional findings by researchers include:

  • Forty-seven percent of primary care doctors were aware of the Choosing Wisely initiative, whereas only 37 percent of medical specialists and 27 percent of surgical specialists were aware of it.
  • One-third of respondents said it was unfair to ask doctors to be both cost-conscious and concerned with patients' welfare; related, they said there was too much focus on the cost of care and reported being too busy to worry about costs.
  • Specialists, who were more concerned about malpractice, reported being less concerned about the cost of care than their primary care colleagues.

A 2015 study found that additional interventions will be required if the Choosing Wisely campaign is to be deemed successful. That study found that while the use of imaging tests and cardiac imaging declined, the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and human papillomavirus testing in women younger than 30 went up.

To learn more:
- read the study 
- check out the article

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