Doctors are more often willing to prescribe a less expensive procedure than a similar one, a new study finds.
Researchers say this may reflect doctors’ less-than-perfect judgment, which can lead to misperceptions of the value of medical care.
But it could also be due to doctors’ limited ability to evaluate costs and provide personalized care.
Dr. Michael Wiese, a professor of optometry at the University of Washington, says doctors should be encouraged to offer more cost-effective alternatives to elective procedures.
“If we have an alternative that is cheaper and it is available to the patient, then it may be a better option than going with what’s available now,” he said.
The study, published this month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, looked at data from a national survey of more than 1,200 doctors that was conducted in 2011.
The survey found that surgeons were more likely than other doctors to recommend elective surgery when there was a $1,000 or less payment.
The survey also found that more than two-thirds of doctors were more than willing to make a referral to a third-party for an elective procedure if it was less expensive.
The findings are consistent with previous research, and raise questions about how doctors are treating the costs of medical procedures.
Wiese said this could be because they know more about how a procedure is performed, and they are more comfortable with the procedure.
“The way surgeons are performing surgery is very different than what we see in other parts of the world,” he told ABC News.
“We can’t go to other countries and have surgeons doing surgeries on people that are not doing it the way that we do it.”
Woese said there is a growing awareness of how surgeons perform their surgeries.
“In general, surgeons in the United States are more willing to take on these things than other countries, and we can see that as a result of this study,” he explained.
“There’s a growing recognition that there’s something we don’t know about what happens during surgery and we need to be better at knowing that, and better educated in that.”
Wieses is now working on a book about the study.
ABC News’ Emily Fiedler contributed to this report.