A recent study commissioned by Optum Institute for Sustainable Health USA Today Article highlights the differing views physicians and patients have about health care. What’s at the heart of the gap? Value.

“I think there’s pretty wide agreement that, overall, the nation is not getting a good value for the $2.6 trillion that will be spent in health care this year,” Simon Stevens, co-chair of Optum Institute, told USA Today. Stevens suggested that because patients don’t know enough about health care, they can’t assess the value of the service they receive, but they do know there’s plenty of room to cut costs.

Here are some key takeaways from the study:

· Doctors believe patients receive appropriate preventive care about 50% of the time, whereas patients feel that happens only 33% of the time.

· About 60% of doctors believe the quality of care varies wildly even within their local areas.

· 50% of hospital executives think their health care systems are on target to become more cost-efficient and accountable; only 26% of patients agree.

· Patients believe that nearly 30% of health care costs could be cut without affecting quality; doctors believe that figure is around 14%.

Perhaps the most promising solution is broader acceptance and implementation of electronic health records, which would give patients access to the pricing that goes along with the care they receive. The problem is that doctors just can’t – or won’t – make the change.

Only 46% of the doctors surveyed indicated that they have electronic records, and although 90% believe they will make the transition within the next three years, there are some significant hurdles such as getting physicians who don’t type to use the systems and selecting from the more than 1,000 electronic health record systems on the market – which aren’t cheap, even with aid and incentives from the federal government.

The bottom line is that doctors may not have a choice. Physician compensation will be tied to performance, which necessitates electronic record keeping among other measures. The survey suggested that nearly 50% of doctors are “not at all prepared for this shift.”

What can you do about this? Ask questions. Does your doctor have an electronic records system? Do you have access to it, including rate and fee information? Ask about the necessity of ordered tests and procedures, and find out if there are alternatives or if they can be conducted elsewhere at lower costs. Get referrals and make informed choices regarding doctors, hospitals, and providers. Take charge of your own health care and make sure you have the right physicians working for you!

Robert B. Sickels

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Robert B. Sickels

For more than 30 years, Robert Sickels has successfully represented plaintiffs involved in complex personal injury, medical negligence, and products liability matters.

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