Trainees are able to estimate the cost of common interventional radiology devices less than 20% of the time

Most imaging trainees are unable to accurately estimate the costs of commonly used interventional radiology devices, according to new research. The findings raise concerning questions regarding physicians’ awareness of healthcare expenditures.

Postgraduate radiology trainees were asked to identify and estimate the prices of 13 IR devices, including guidewire, biopsy needles, IVC filters, and more. None of the young doctors were able to pin down the costs for all items, underestimating price tags nearly 50% of the time.

The findings, shared in the January issue of one of Ireland’s top clinical publications, the Irish Medical Journal, build on data suggesting physicians across many specialties are unaware of healthcare expenditures. And it may be hurting the bottom line, according to Douglas Mulholland, MD, of Beaumont Hospital’s radiology department in Dublin, and colleagues.

“This study adds to the growing body of evidence that knowledge of cost awareness amongst medical trainees is poor and highlights the need for this to be addressed in the near future,” Mulholland noted, adding that reversing such deficiencies may help maximize the cost-effectiveness of interventional rad departments.

For their research, the team sent their 26-question multiple-choice survey to 82 radiology trainees and gathered 49 responses.

Each individual was presented with in vivo and ex vivo images of 13 devices: PICC lines, Angio-Seal closure devices, tunneled dialysis catheters, port-a-caths, pigtail drainage catheters, guidewires, biopsy needles, micropuncture kits, angioplasty balloons, IVC filters, covered metal vascular stents, gastrostomy tubes, and EVAR grafts. A correct estimate needed to fall within 25% of the true cost.

Trainees hit the cost nail right on the head 18.8% of the time. Most often, however, they underestimated figures (48.9% of cases) with overestimations occurring 32.3% of the time.

Young rads were most accurate at guessing Angio-Seal closure device prices (37.7% of trainees) and the least proficient at assessing the value of IVC filters (0% of trainees). Furthermore, the three most costly items—IVC filter, stent graft and EVAR repair graft—were most often underestimated at 100%, 87.8% and 98% of the time, respectively.

Some of these items are exclusively used in interventional radiology, but others, such as PICC lines, drainage catheters and biopsy needles, are staples of many other subspecialties, the authors noted, suggesting this knowledge gap cannot be solely pinned to IR trainees.

The group explained that efforts within undergraduate medical education are underway to encourage schools to teach health economics, but courses vary by program. Mulholland et al. said such training should involve health economics modules that continue education after med school.