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Doctors Can Help Lower Hospital Costs
Date:5/13/2008

'Gainsharing' gives physicians cash rewards to keep expenses down, researchers say

TUESDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- Giving doctors cash rewards to reduce hospital spending helps control costs without compromising quality or patients' access to care, according to a five-year study that included more than 220,000 patients.

The study compared six cardiac catheterization labs that implemented this type of "gainsharing" program to 123 non-gainsharing labs.

The researchers, from Arizona State University, found that gainsharing reduced hospital costs by 7.4 percent, or $315 per patient. That means that nationwide use of gainsharing could slash hospital costs for coronary stent patients by about $195 million a year, according to the researchers.

Most of the savings from the gainsharing programs in the study were the result of lower prices for coronary stents. The gainsharing programs didn't lead to any changes in patient referral patterns and didn't increase the overall risk of in-lab complications. In fact, the gainsharing programs were associated with significant decreases in three specific types of complications, the researchers said.

"We found no evidence that gainsharing prompted physicians to avoid patients with existing health problems or pick the healthiest patients," study author Jonathon Ketcham, an assistant professor at the university's School of Health Management and Policy, said in prepared statement.

Further research into gainsharing's effects on other health care quality measures and how it influences doctors' decisions would be valuable, he added.

The study is published in the May/June issue of the journal Health Affairs, a themed issue on health-care reform.

Another study in the issue concluded that doctors in Massachusetts don't face a malpractice premium crisis -- even though the state has the fourth-highest median malpractice settlement payments in the
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