Costs of ER Treatments a Mystery to Many Docs

Just 4 in 10 could accurately estimate charges for patients, study finds

TUESDAY, May 30, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- If you wind up in the ER, chances are your doctors have no clue what the tests and treatments they order will cost, a new study finds.

Researchers asked more than 400 emergency medicine health care professionals -- including physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners -- about the cost of care for three types of cases commonly seen in an emergency department: a 35-year old woman with abdominal pain, a 57-year old man with labored breathing and a 7-year old boy with a sore throat.

Only four out of 10 could accurately estimate the cost range for the three situations.

The study was published May 30 in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

"Early in my residency, I realized I had no idea how much money I was spending with all the tests and medications I ordered -- mostly because it's just not discussed," said study leader Dr. Kevin Hoffman, an emergency medicine resident at Lakeland Health in Saint Joseph, Mich.

The researchers said their findings point to the need to improve health care providers' awareness about the costs of emergency care.

Adding the price of tests and medications to the order entry system could lower costs while maintaining safe and positive outcomes, Hoffman suggested.

"It's a good tool that helps doctors make a connection between the treatment they're providing and the bill that's going to hit the patient -- or in many cases, the taxpayers," Hoffman said in a journal news release.

For example, "If I order a drug to be given via IV, it's going to be a lot more expensive than if I give it orally, as a pill. In many cases, both are equally effective," he explained.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers ways for patients to reduce health care costs (https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000870.htm ).

SOURCE: The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, news release, May 30, 2017