62% of ER clinicians can't accurately estimate costs of care

Just 38 percent of emergency physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, on average, can accurately estimate the costs for three common conditions seen in the emergency department, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.  

The study included a survey of 441 emergency medicine professionals in which they were asked to identify the cost of care for three common scenarios, including a 35-year old woman with abdominal pain, a 57-year old man with labored breathing and a 7-year old boy with a sore throat. The healthcare professionals who participated in the survey received medical histories, physical exam findings, diagnostic tests and interventions for each hypothetical patient. They were also given four cost ranges for each scenario.

Less than half — 43 percent — of ER clinicians chose the correct price range for the woman with abdominal pain, followed by 40 percent for the child with a sore throat and 32 percent for the man with labored breathing, according to the study.

Kevin Hoffman, DO, an emergency medicine resident a Saint Joseph, Mich.-based Lakeland Health, led the research for the study. He said these findings illuminate the case for making the costs of care more transparent in the ER.

"Early in my residency, I realized I had no idea how much money I was spending with all the tests and medications I ordered — mostly because it's just not discussed," Dr. Hoffman said, according to the report. He added that it's the responsibility of all physicians to help control costs for patients, particularly in the ER, where expensive tests and treatments can be financially devastating for patients without health insurance.

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