IU study suggests that money does matter to doctors

April 3, 2010

Think doctors and hospitals aren’t influenced by money? Think again.

Patients seen at private facilities reimbursed by Medicare were 5-1/2 times more likely to receive routine cataract surgery than patients at Veterans Affairs facilities, according to a study whose lead author was Dr. Dustin French, a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine and an investigator at the Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute Inc.

A news release about the study from IU and Regenstrief called the results “a strong indication” that physicians or their medical facility or both “may be responsive to financial incentives.”

In English, that means they know where their bread is buttered. The study reinforces wide criticisms of doctors that they order more procedures and more tests because insurance programs like Medicare and even private plans pay them for volume of services, not quality or outcomes.

Findings from the eight-year study were published in the March issue of the American Journal of Medical Quality.


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