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Doctors outline their role in containing health costs

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 5, 2013

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Physicians see themselves as having some role in health cost-containment strategies, but not necessarily as having the most important part to play.

A survey of 2,556 physicians found that 36% said practicing doctors have a “major responsibility” for reducing health costs, according to research published in the July 24/31 Journal of the American Medical Association (link). However, larger percentages of doctors pointed to trial lawyers (60%), health insurers (59%), hospitals and health networks (56%), pharmaceutical and device companies (56%) and patients (52%) as having a major responsibility to reduce costs. Doctors could choose more than one category.

When asked what cost-reduction strategies they would support, physicians were most likely to point to promoting continuity of care (75%), expanding access to quality and safety data (51%) and limiting access to expensive treatments with little net benefit (51%). There was little support (7%) for the option of eliminating fee-for-service payment.

Meanwhile, 76% of doctors said they were aware of the cost of tests and treatments they recommend, and 89% said physicians need to take a more prominent role in reducing “unnecessary tests.” The survey said 78% of physicians agreed with the statement that they “should be solely devoted to individual patients’ best interests, even if that is expensive,” though 79% said they agreed they should adhere to clinical guidelines that discourage the use of “marginally” beneficial care.

Researchers said they conducted the survey to get a sense of doctors’ opinions because “their perceived responsibilities as stewards of health care resources in general are increasingly germane to recent pending and proposed policy reforms.”

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