Healthcare consumerism is good. We should all work to get better at it. Transparency tools that are provided by the carriers and by innovative up and comers like CareTrader can be quite helpful. We should take advantage of these tools and use them wisely.

But, if you really want to control your personal healthcare spending, get the best bang for your healthcare buck and achieve the best possible medical outcome, your best bet is to PICK THE RIGHT DOC.


Consider what the highly respected and still oft-cited 2005 study by the Boston University School of Public Health reveals:

Physicians’ decisions control fully 87 percent of the personal health care dollar

That’s right. And, the BU study goes on to say the following: “While physicians’ own incomes represent approximately 21% of personal health care spending, physician decisions also determine patients’ use of hospitals, prescription drugs, long term care (LTC), and many other health care goods and services. These amount to an additional 66% of personal health spending. Only the remaining 13% of personal health spending is neither physicians’ income nor controlled by physicians’ decisions.”

BU Study Pie Chart.001

The study concludes that costs can be controlled safely and effectively patient-by-patient.  But, most patients alone aren’t equipped to do it. To be successful controlling personal healthcare spending you have to be aligned with the right physician. Ultimately it’s doctors that determine what services are needed and what courses of treatment have the best chance of being effective for each of us. And, their decisions whether they like it or not, have to take into account how much a course of treatment costs and who’s paying for it.

So, my take: Use the transparency tools;  and, be vigilant about your own healthcare; but to truly be the best and most effective healthcare consumer and the most effective steward of your own dollars — PICK THE RIGHT DOC.

Note: Tip of the hat to colleague and good friend George Furlong, the most talented analytics guru I’ve had the pleasure of working with, who reminded me of the BU Study and how it’s been used to develop proven programs to truly contain costs and deliver effective treatment outcomes. George currently serves as a senior managed care executive with a large national TPA.