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When Money Isn’t Everything To Doctors

I recently pointed to a BMJ study concluding that pay for performance doesn’t seem to motivate doctors. It has been picking up steam in major media with TIME, for instance, saying: “Money isn’t everything, even to doctors.”

So much is riding on the concept of pay for performance, that it’s hard to fathom what other options there are should it fail. And there’s mounting evidence that it will.

Dr. Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician at the University of Indiana, and regular contributor to, ponders the options. First he comments on why the performance incentives in the NHS failed:

Perhaps the doctors were already improving without the program. If that’s the case, though, then you don’t need economic incentives. It’s possible the incentives were too low. But I don’t think many will propose more than a 25 percent bonus. It’s also possible that the benchmarks which define success were too low and therefore didn’t improve outcomes. There’s no scientific reason to think that the recommendations weren’t appropriate, however. More likely, it’s what I’ve said before. Changing physician behavior is hard.

So if money can’t motivate doctors, what’s next? Physicians aren’t going to like what Dr. Carroll has to say. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

The Seduction Of Primary Care

Hey there, big, smart, good-looking doctor…

Are you tired of being snubbed at all the parties? Are you tired of those mean old specialists having all of the fun?

I have something for you, something that will make you smile. Just come to me and see what I have for you. Embrace me and I will take away all of the bad things in your life. I am what you dream about. I am what you want.  I am yours if you want me…

Seduce: verb [trans.] attract (someone) to a belief or into a course of action that is inadvisable or foolhardy : they should not be seduced into thinking that their success ruled out the possibility of a relapse. See note at “tempt.”

(From the dictionary on my Mac, which I don’t know how to cite.)

If you ever go to a professional meeting for doctors, make sure you spend time on the exhibition floor. What you see there will tell you a lot about our system and why it is in the shape it is. Besides physician recruiters, EMR vendors, and drug company booths, the biggest contingent of booths is that of the ancillary service vendors.

“You can code this as CPT-XYZ and get $200 per procedure!”

“This is billable to Medicare under ICD-ABC.DE and it reimburses $300. That’s a 90 percent margin for you!”

This is an especially strong temptation for primary care doctors, as our main source of income comes from the patient visit — something that is poorly reimbursed. Just draw a few lab tests, do a few scans, do this, do that, and your income goes up dramatically. The salespeople (usually attractive women, ironically) will give a passing nod to the medical rationale for these procedures, but the pitch is made on one thing: Revenue. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

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