How Beth Israel's 56-Item List Could Cut Health Care Costs

Picture this: You walk into a restaurant and find that the menu doesn’t list any prices for the food. What’s more, the servers don’t seem to have the slightest idea about any of the costs, either. ‘Oh well,’ you think, ‘I’ll just get the best thing on the menu without regard to the price, and then just worry about the bill when it arrives at the end of the meal.’

If you think about it, that’s pretty much how hospitals operate.

But Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is attempting to change that. According to WBUR, they’ve recently provided physicians with a list of 56 common tests and procedures, and each one has a price attached. Their point is to make doctors aware of the costs for each procedure so that they don’t order unnecessary examinations. In many cases, they’ve often found that simple and cheaper tests can be just as effective as tests that cost 10 times as much, but most doctors had no idea about the differences in cost.

For a long time, the Hippocratic oath was the prominent doctrine that medical practitioners followed, which often meant providing the best possible care without regard to how much money was involved. But doctors within Beth Israel say the rising costs of health care, and the resulting financial strain it puts on patients, is worth considering when making medical decisions. And while they’re not allowing patients to see the 56-item list before they decide on their treatment options (it’s only available to the hospital staff), I think it’s a move in the right direction. Health care needs to be more honest and open for it to be more effective. What do you think?