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Study Reports Patients Involved with Medical Decisions Tend to Spend More Money

Update Date: May 30, 2013 03:06 PM EDT

For some patients, knowing all types of treatment options and how each one affects the body is a very important part in receiving medical care. Even though doctors should know the most about what is best for the patient, some people like to be involved with the medical decision process. Even though this involvement could lead to a better doctor-patient relationship and improved overall medical treatment, a new study found that it could also lead to more costs for the patient.

In a study conducted by researchers from the University of Chicago School of Medicine, they found that patients who displayed more interest during the medical care process spent nearly five percent more time in hospitals and paid an average of $865 extra in medical costs when compared to patients who followed the doctors' decisions. The research team administered a survey to 21, 754 patients who agreed to complete it during their stay at the University of Chicago's general internal medicine service from July 2003 to August 2011.

Based from these answers, the researchers found that the majority of the patients placed their trust on the doctors and followed whatever procedures or treatment options they provided. 28.9 percent of the people, however, stated that they would take on a bigger role in deciding what medical treatments they wanted. This group that utilized shared decision making stayed at the hospital longer and had a six percent increase in medical costs. These costs could result from extra tests that the patient would want to do after learning more about the options and choices.

The researchers then estimated that if 30 percent of the 35 million people, who are hospitalized per year, are involved in the decision process, the extra health care costs would increase to $8.7 billion. The researchers acknowledged that this finding suggests that a healthy balance between better medical care and costs needs to be established.

"We need to think harder and learn more about what it means to empower patients in multiple health care settings and how incentives facing both patients and caregivers in those settings can influence decisions," said study author Dr. David Meltzer, an associate professor of medicine, economics and public policy at the University of Chicago.

The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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