Younger docs drive patient costs

The less clinical experience a physician has, the higher the costs to treat his or her patients, a new study of Massachusetts physicians published in Health Affairs reveals.

While researchers found no correlation between cost and other factors, such as malpractice claims, higher-cost physicians stand to be penalized under or excluded from private preferred-network health plans and Medicare's upcoming value-based modifier program.

According to the RAND Corporation's analysis of cost profiles for 12,724 physicians across all specialties between 2004 and 2005, the average per-capita patient cost was $14,906 for physicians with fewer than 10 years' experience, $10,104 for those with more than 40 years' experience, and $12,028 for those with 30 to 39 years of experience, MedPage Today reported.

Overall, physicians with less than 10 years of experience had 13.2 percent higher overall costs than physicians with 40 or more years of practice.

Lead author Ateev Mehrotra, a health policy researcher at RAND and associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues had expected physicians working in smaller medical practices and those with previous malpractice claims to stand out as higher spenders. They came up with several possible explanations for the higher spending among younger docs, according to Kaiser Health News.

Among other reasons, the team suspected that younger docs may treat higher numbers of complex patients, be more familiar with newer, more expensive treatments and pour on more services in an effort to not miss anything among patients with whom they have less-established relationships than their more-experienced counterparts, MedPage Today noted.

To learn more:
- see the abstract from Health Affairs
- read the post from Kaiser Health News
- read the article from MedPage Today

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