Study: One in five orthopedic surgeons know how much devices used for procedures cost

Apr 7, 2014 | Health Insurance Billing

The cost of health care may differ based on the type of insurance plan a patient has, and in the world of specialized services this could make the ultimate difference. Patients like Kim Little may not have $25,000 to cover the cost of one procedure, practitioners who fail to keep an eye on price tags could put their patients in a difficult position.

A study that was recently published in Health Affairs found that surgeons may not be aware of the cost of their health care tools, getting it wrong about 80 percent of the time, even though answers that were within 20 percent of the actual price would be considered correct. Wrong estimates could be really expensive to older Americans who need hip replacements and previous athletes with knee problems.

"Health care markets cannot work rationally if doctors and patients do not know the cost of treatment alternatives," Forbes Magazine contributor Peter Ubel wrote. "To make matters worse, the surgeons in this study were systematically biased in their cost estimates – they overestimated the price of less expensive devices and underestimated the price of more expensive ones."

Although health care professionals are not responsible for knowing the cost of preventative treatment options, having an idea of the cost can help patients determine what course of action to take.

Instead of blindly starting a procedure, practitioners can work with accounts receivable services to identify the average price of certain tools, medications and devices. This way, they can be more equipped during preliminary consultations with patients to give them quality care, while keeping costs low enough that they will feel comfortable paying their bill in the future.

The downside about this approach is that it can be time-consuming at first for some members of the accounts receivable department. If staffers need additional time to do research, but have a significant amount of accounts to process, consider outsourcing medical claims management to Professional Medical Services.