Blog | Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fight horrors of health care costs by teaching value

This Halloween, several creative costumes have emerged from the zingers of the Presidential debates; Big Bird costumes are selling out like hotcakes. For a more do it yourself look, here's a recipe for binders full of women. The debate over the best way to contain health care costs has also been a central part of the debates, and yet medical bills do not seem to make popular costumes. Maybe that is because that unaffordability of health care is too horrifying for ironic humor, even on Halloween.

As we head into the election, patients are increasingly being terrorized by runaway health care costs. Americans outspend our peers two to one and still seem to be worse off. We overtest and overtreat to the point of absurdity.

According to a recent report, "The U.S. did 100 MRI tests and 265 CT tests for every 1,000 people in 2010--more than twice the average in other OECD countries." The causes are multifactorial, but the solutions can't be left to presidents and policymakers alone. An important part of the responsibility rests with health care professionals and the educators who train them.

Experts in health professions education and economics have lamented the poor state of education on health care costs. Over 60% of U.S. medical graduates describe their medical economics training as "inadequate." Not only are medical trainees unaware of the costs of the tests that they order, they are rarely positioned to understand the downstream financial harms medical bills can have on patients.

More recently, Medicare, the largest funder of residency training in the United States, is concerned that we are not producing the physicians to practice cost-conscious medicine in an era of diminished resources.

We have been scared in the dark too long and this Halloween the time has come to Take Charge.

Join us now at

About Teaching Value: the Costs of Care Teaching Value Project is an initiative of Costs of Care that is funded by the ABIM Foundation. Our team is comprised of medical educators and trainees who believe it is time to transform the American health care system by empowering cost-conscious caregivers to deflate medical bills and protect patients' wallets. Our web-based video modules are designed to be easy to access for anyone anywhere and provide a starting point for tackling this problem. It's time to emerge from the darkness and do our part to tame the terror of health care costs.

Vineet Arora, MD, is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. She is Associate Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency and Assistant Dean of Scholarship & Discovery at the Pritzker School of Medicine for the University of Chicago. Her education and research focus is on resident duty hours, patient handoffs, medical professionalism, and quality of hospital care. She is also an academic hospitalist, supervising internal medicine residents and students caring for general medicine patients, and serves as a career advisor and mentor for several medical students and residents, and directs the NIH-sponsored Training Early Achievers for Careers in Health (TEACH) Research program, which prepares and inspires talented diverse Chicago high school students to enter medical research careers. This post originally appeared on her blog, FutureDocs.