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Survey: Doctors blame health care costs on Big Pharma

By Wendy Leonard, KSL | Posted - Jul. 16, 2018 at 8:18 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Patients aren't the only ones worried about rising health care costs, a new survey shows.

Doctors, too, are apparently hoping for more transparency, specifically from pharmaceutical and insurance companies, which seem to drive the industry.

A new University of Utah Health-sponsored survey of hundreds of physicians, executives and clinical leaders points out that doctors "feel responsible for the cost of care to a patient, but not accountable for it."

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"Doctors do care about medical costs and are sensitive to those costs," said Dr. Robert Glasgow, vice chairman of clinical and quality operations at the U.'s department of surgery. "Physicians don't set pricing for insurance, and we can't determine the price of a drug or a new technology, so it's easy to feel powerless when it comes to impacting costs."

He said all stakeholders in health care, including Big Pharma and insurance companies, hospital systems, government, employers and patients, should be accountable for all costs.

The survey reports that its respondents, who are mostly physicians, "overwhelmingly believe pharmaceutical firms, followed closely by insurance companies, hospitals and health care systems, have the biggest impact on costs." Unfortunately, the survey reveals, the physicians don't feel equipped or prepared to talk about financial concerns of patients and also believe health care costs are too confusing for patients to figure out on their own.

Physicians acknowledge that costs, even small ones, are important to patients. They hope for better tools to help explain where the money is going, and 64 percent of the survey respondents say there isn't enough time to talk about the cost of treatments with patients.

"The doctor-patient relationship should never be seen as a business transaction," Glasgow said. "We need to train physicians to give patients enough cost data. That's the starting block of high-value care."

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"Physicians should be stewards of the resource, and that means we can't make ourselves immune to the cost of what we do," he said.

The survey, done with New England Journal of Medicine's Catalyst, is the first of three and came out of University of Utah Health's desire to define the value of health care.

"If we as a country agree that we can, and must, provide higher quality health care and a better patient experience at a lower cost, then we need to better understand how other groups define and prioritize these three aspect of health care," the sponsor perspective of the report states. U. Health commissioned the study "to help clarify how patients, physicians and employers who pay for medical benefits perceive value."

Physicians don't set pricing for insurance, and we can't determine the price of a drug or a new technology, so it's easy to feel powerless when it comes to impacting costs.

–Robert Glasgow, U. department of surgery

In addition to cost, further surveys will gather perspective on how the groups perceive quality and service.

University of Utah Health, which is Utah's only academic health care system, claims to have been on a "value journey" for about a decade, making "bold moves" and "steady progress," according to the survey.

The system aims to increase the dialogue around value in health care "and move us toward a collective vision for a value-focused health care delivery system" nationwide.

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