Background: Physicians play a key role in mitigating and managing costs in healthcare which are rising. Objective: Conduct a cross-sectional survey in 2017, comparing results to a 2012 survey to understand US physicians’ evolving attitudes and strategies concerning healthcare costs. Participants: Random sample of 1200 US physicians from the AMA Masterfile. Measures: Physician views on responsibility for costs of care, enthusiasm for cost-saving strategies, cost-consciousness scale, and practice strategies on addressing cost. Key Results: Among 1200 physicians surveyed in 2017, 489 responded (41%). In 2017, slightly more physicians reported that physicians have a major responsibility for addressing healthcare costs (32% vs. 27%, p = 0.03). In 2017, more physicians attributed “major responsibility” for addressing healthcare costs to pharmaceutical companies (68% vs. 56%, p < 0.001) and hospital and health systems (63% vs. 56%%, p = 0.008) in contrast to 2012. Fewer respondents in 2017 attributed major responsibility for addressing costs to trial lawyers (53% vs. 59%, p = 0.007) and patients (42% vs. 52%, p < 0.0001) as compared to 2012. Physician enthusiasm for patient-focused cost-containment strategies like high deductible health plans and higher co-pays (62% vs. 42%, p < 0.0001 and 62% vs. 39%, p < 0.0001, not enthusiastic, respectively) declined. Physicians reported that when they discussed cost, it resulted in a change in disease management 56% of the time. Cost-consciousness within surveyed physicians had not changed meaningfully in 2017 since 2012 (31.7 vs. 31.2). Most physicians continued to agree that decision support tools showing costs would be helpful in their practice (> 70%). After adjusting for specialty, political affiliation, practice setting, age, and gender, only democratic/independent affiliation remained a significant predictor of cost-consciousness. Conclusions and Relevance: US physicians increasingly attribute responsibility for rising healthcare costs to organizations and express less enthusiasm for strategies that increase patient out-of-pocket cost. Interventions that focus on physician knowledge and communication strategies regarding cost of care may be helpful.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by the Small Grants Program of the Mayo Clinic’s Division of General Internal Medicine and by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (Grant No. UL1 TR002377). Dr. Thorsteinsdottir was on a K grant from the National Institute on Ageing.