RAND study: Less experienced doctors spend more on patient care than experienced physicians

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Experience counts when it comes to counting healthcare costs, a new RAND Corporation study concludes.

The least experienced doctors spend substantially more money treating patients than their more experienced colleagues do, a RAND study published Monday says.

The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, is the first to examine connections between physician characteristics and medical costs. The researchers found that physicians with 10 or fewer years of experience spend 13.2 percent more on patient care than those with more than 40 years of experience. What’s more, they found that the cost of patient care dropped with each decade of experience a doctor claims.

The findings surface as Medicare and commercial insurance plans are using cost profiles to identify and reward doctors who provide quality health care at lower prices. As a result of such policies, less-experienced doctors who spend more on patient care may get dinged with lower reimbursement payments, or could find themselves excluded from contracting networks.

RAND conducted the study by using commercial health plan claims for more than one million people in Massachusetts in 2004 and 2005. They evaluated the costs of 600 types of “episodes of care” by 12,000 physicians. The study's researchers say that while their findings warrant further study, they do highlight a need for postgraduate training programs and specialty medical boards to educate doctors about managing health care costs.

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