No change if doctors know cost of MRI

Jan. 28, 2013 at 10:23 PM
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BALTIMORE, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- If U.S. doctors are told the exact price of expensive medical tests in advance of ordering them, they do not order fewer, researchers say.

Senior author Dr. Daniel J. Brotman of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the hospitalist program at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and colleagues said revealing the costs of magnetic resonance imaging and other imaging tests up front had no impact on the number of tests doctors ordered.

"Cost alone does not seem to be the determining factor in deciding to go ahead with an expensive radiographic test," Brotman said in a statement. "There is definitely an over-ordering of tests in this country, and we can make better decisions about whether our patients truly need each test we order for them. But when it comes to big-ticket tests like MRI, it appears the doctors have already decided they need to know the information, regardless of the cost of the test."

Studies in the past suggested much of the expense of laboratory tests, medical imaging and prescription drugs is unknown or hidden from providers and patients at the time of ordering, leaving financial considerations largely out of the healthcare decision-making process, Brotman noted. Prices are not typically shared with physicians or patients in most medical settings, Brotman said.

Other studies have shown that doctors ordered fewer laboratory tests in some cases when they were given the price up front. But, imaging tests appear to be "a different animal," Brotman said.

The findings were published online in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

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