Making physicians aware of the cost of regular lab tests cuts the daily bill for those tests by as much as 27%, according to a new study.
The study, published in the May issue of Archives of Surgery, first monitored the baseline daily per-patient cost for two common lab tests – complete blood count and total chemistry panel – among surgical patients at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence. Once the baseline was established, researchers made weekly scripted announcements to the physicians-in-training who order most of the tests and to their attending physicians about the cost of those tests, but doctors were never told when or when not to order a particular test.
When the program began, the daily cost per non-intensive care patient was $147.73. Over the 11 weeks of the study, that dipped as low as $108.11 in the eighth week. There were a couple of weeks where the cost of tests went up from the previous week, but those corresponded with a new influx of intern physicians who were hearing the announcement for the first time.
Over 11 weeks, the official total saved was $54,967. (In practice, of course, the true amount saved would be less, as the official savings is based on the sticker price of the tests, not the amounts actually paid by Medicare or negotiated with third-party insurers.)
Study co-author Elizabeth Stuebing says the results show what can happen merely by giving physicians information they don’t usually get. “We never see the dollar amount of anything,” she says. “The first week I stood up and said that in the previous week we’d charged $30,000 of routine blood work and I could hear gasps from the audience.”
Source: The Wall Street Journal
You can read an abstract of the study here.