Why physicians may prescribe more drugs on colder days

The temperature on the day of a blood test can affect certain results, such as cholesterol levels. These effects can play a large role in physicians' treatment decisions, according to researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. 

In a recent interview with the Chicago Booth Review, Devin Pope, PhD, a behavioral economist, described research he and his colleagues conducted using a data set with information on about 5 million patients and the blood tests they've gotten across a several-year period. They found cholesterol levels on a warm day can look better than on a really cold day. 

"You're about 5 percent less likely to be prescribed statins or cholesterol medication if your blood was tested on a warm day than if it was tested on a cold day," Dr. Pope said in the April 5 interview. "The effects [on the test results] are large enough to actually impact the type of medication you might be prescribed, and this suggests that we should be thinking about the weather on the time of these blood tests and whether or not a correction might be necessary." 

He also described a related research project that looked at data on how physicians treat patients with a blood test result that is right below a guideline versus right above a guideline. When looking at results from patients who had a test done to measure their prostate-specific antigen level, for example, they found patients with a PSA level just above the guideline "could be two to three times more likely to have a biopsy done, to have a prostatectomy done, to be retested," compared to those right below the guideline. 

To listen to the full interview, click here.

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