The less experience a physician has, the more costly the care he or she provides, according to a study published in the November issue of Health Affairs
The study's authors, looking at insurance claims within the Massachusetts Health Quality Partners consortium, found a strong association between a physician's experience and costs and just a weak association between volume and costs. No other associations were found for other characteristics studied, including malpractice claims, board certification status and group practice size. The authors analyzed the matter because Medicare and other health plans are studying higher-cost physicians to see if they can be targeted to reduce care costs, according to the study.
Doctors with fewer than 10 years of experience were found to have cost profiles 13.2% greater than those with 40 years or more experience; physicians with 10-19 years experience had 10% higher costs than those in the 40-plus-years-of-experience category; doctors with 20-29 years experience had 6.5% higher costs; and doctors with 30-39 years experience had 2.5% higher costs.
The study authors speculate that the cost differences appear because younger physicians have higher-cost practice patterns or because younger doctors are seeing sicker patients; neither possibility could be confirmed or refuted by the study data, the authors wrote.