Another Study Shows Doctors Responding To Profit Motives

We trust doctors. When they recommend a course of treatment or a surgery to us, we think their opinion is a disinterested one, one that is based solely on medical science and that is completely divorced from any financial stake they may have in the outcome.
I’ve previously blogged about how this isn’t always the case. When the Medicare reimbursement rate for a particular surgery falls, doctors perform fewer of those surgeries. I’ve blogged about how doctors might recommend a more costly procedure, even when it raises a patient’s risk of cancer. I’ve blogged about how, when a businessman’s mentality takes root in a medical community, it can double the cost of healthcare.
Now comes a new University of Michigan study showing that doctors with ownership interests in outpatient surgery centers perform twice as many surgeries as their colleagues without any financial stake in the surgery centers. One of the study’s authors, Dr. John Hollingsworth, says, “To the extent that owners are motivated by profit, one potential explanation for our findings is that these physicians may be lowering their thresholds for treating patients with these common outpatient procedures.”
Probably the only thing worse than being a victim of medical malpractice, is finding out you never really needed the operation in the first place.