Dollars and Sense: UT trying to solve hidden problem in healthcare


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The debate over solving the healthcare crisis in America usually focuses on insurance companies and prescription drug makers.  Not much attention is given to the doctors who order tests, prescribe drugs and perform procedures.

Last year, Americans spent $3.65 trillion on healthcare. Dr. Christopher Moriates from the UT Dell Medical School estimates a third of that spending, went to tests, procedures, and prescriptions that weren’t needed. 

“One thing we traditionally have not taught in medical school is anything about cost and the problem with that is that our patients care about the cost,” says Moriates. 

UT Dell Medical School is one of a handful of universities now teaching “value-based” healthcare where doctors weight the costs and benefits of a particular treatment. 

“(If) you get a menu with no prices, you’ll order the filet mignon every single time,”says Moriates.

Teaching value-based healthcare and practicing it are not the same thing. Historically, doctors are paid for providing a service — the more they do, the more they get paid.  But in the value-based model, doctors are paid based on the outcome for the patient, regardless of how much work they did. 

“If you’re having a knee replacement, the outcome that probably matters is, ‘can you climb your stairs?’,” says Moriates.

Moriates says the goal is for half of medical billing nationwide to be done this way. In order for that to happen, value-based healthcare will have to be taught outside of Austin.  UT Dell Medical School has teamed up with Austin-based Online Med Ed to provide online courses in value-based healthcare for schools and individual students across the country.

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