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Physicians lack data to curb wasteful healthcare spending


Although many say physicians are key to cutting wasteful healthcare spending, a new report says providers lack the data and tools to do so.

The majority of wasted healthcare spending carry little or no health benefits, and although physicians may be the best positioned to reduce wasteful spending, they often are left without the tools and data necessary to do so, according to a new paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Alyna T. Chen, MD, MS, of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, and Meredith B. Rosenthal, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, say clinicians need better access to detailed and timely data that is necessary to make medical, operational, and policy decisions to improve the clinical and fiscal health of the nation.

“First, physicians need to begin having some understanding of the costs of the services they provide and their potential relationship to care quality,” the authors write. This can be achieved through greater transparency from provider organizations about the cost and price of healthcare, they continue. “Second, those who fund research should routinely support studies that aim to evaluate the cost or cost-effectiveness of clinical and quality interventions.”

The paper emphasizes that although doctors can estimate the degree to which treatment or diagnostic interventions may benefit their patients clinically, they know “notoriously little” about the cost-effectiveness of their recommendations.

The success of payment reform efforts depends on solid data, and the authors note that many studies fail to reveal a clear relationship between cost and quality. Payers must weigh how much they shift financial risk from themselves to provider organizations when applying pay-for-performance measures, and physician and payer groups must work together to monitor the success of clinical and financial reform efforts, they say.


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