Readily Understandable Cost, Quality Data Are Influential Factors in Physician Decision-Making

When physicians have access to cost data and other clinical data that accompanies it, they are able to make better decisions about treatments while lowering costs for their practices and their patients, a report finds.

Ninety-one percent of 276 surgical and medical specialists think that physician access to data analytics could improve care, but only 40 percent said their health systems are working to make this happen, according to a recent study by Lumere, which was published in the Physician Leadership Journal.

As an example, Modern Healthcare wrote about a Washington state-based provider, Providence St. Joseph, which was looking to reduce the cost of knee replacement procedures. For this, the physicians relied on a team of data experts to filter the data in a way that made it understandable to physicians. In looking at the cost of premixed antibiotic-infused bone cement, they compared two data sets of procedures that used that product versus procedures that did not and found no significant improvement in outcomes in surgeries that used it.

With the help of this data, the health system was able to save $1 million on knee replacement procedures over one year, according to Modern Healthcare.

“There is a reason why other systems haven’t done this—it is really hard, particularly to do this in a way that is translatable across hospitals,” Dr. Caleb Stowell, enterprise director of value-based care at Providence St. Joseph Health, told Modern Healthcare. “It is also critical that the information is presented in a way that taps into the psyche of a physician. The way we built the tool was through transparency that exposed the practice pattern of one physician relative to another.”

According to Lumere’s study, the decisions physicians make with regard to cost and efficiency play a big role in how health systems spend their money.

“One of the best models I have seen around decreasing supply costs and engaging physicians are physician-preference item committees that explore efficacy and cost data,” Dr. Daniel Debehnke, a managing director at Navigant told Modern Healthcare. “Whether a physician is employed or not, the most important thing is data sharing so they can make informed decisions.”

Mary Butler is the associate editor at Journal of AHIMA.

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