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What the doctor might not know

February 11, 2010

Do you know what the exact cost of each medical services? Probably not, not very many people do but the scary thing is, neither do physicians.  Today, specially educated medical billing and coding professionals are hired to manage the financial portion of the business.  Due to this, it is not uncommon for a physician to be unsure of the real cost of services provided to the patient.

In some ways, this may be a good change because physicians only have to focus on correcting problems with health.  On the other hand, with no knowledge of the cost of treatment, the doctor may not choose the best route for each individual patient.  While one patient may have plenty of money, the next one may be better off with the cheaper solution.

With this problem becoming a bigger concern with so much focus on the cost of health care, some schools have begun integrating cost education into there medical programs.  At the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, 1st and 2nd year students are required to have a PDA or smart phone so they can use a medical practice management software.  This software allows students to run mock cases, showing them costs of medicines or services for various health insurance plans.

Unfortunately, just like medical curriculum, knowledge about insurance companies and pricing is very vast.  Making it hard for students to get a good grasp of the material while learning medicine.  Dr. Manjula Julka, assistant professor of family and community medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School said that medical school is not an appropriate time to start grilling student physicians over the intricacies of billing.  They need to know evidence-based medicine, first and foremost.

Eventhough it would be nice if physicians knew more about pricing, I’m sure everyone would agree that they don’t want a doctor that does not know what he or she is doing.   As medicine progresses, hopefully some form of education will be found that can be used to teach pricing without taking away from medical studies.  Until then, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about your options and the cost of each one.  Even if they do not know the cost off the top of their head, the information available to them.

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