Patients' attitudes towards cost feedback to doctors to prevent unnecessary testing: a qualitative focus group study

Ben Young, Andrew Fogarty , Rob Skelly, Dominic Shaw, Peter Thurley, Nigel Sturrock, Mark Norwood, Tessa E Langley, Sarah Lewis, Jo Cranwell

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There is a need to improve efficiency in healthcare delivery without compromising quality of care. One approach is the development and evaluation of behavioural strategies to reduce unnecessary use of common tests. However, there is an absence of evidence on patient attitudes to the use of such approaches in the delivery of care. Our objective was to explore patient acceptability of a nudge-type intervention that aimed to modify blood test requests by hospital doctors.

Study design
Single-centre qualitative study.

The financial costs of common blood tests were presented to hospital doctors on results reports for 1 year at a hospital. Focus group discussions were conducted with recent inpatients at the hospital using a semi-structured question schedule. Discussions were transcribed and analysed using qualitative content analysis to identify and prioritise common themes explaining attitudes to the intervention approach.

Three focus groups involving 17 participants were conducted. Patients were generally apprehensive about the provision of blood test cost feedback to doctors. Attitudes were organised around themes representing beliefs about blood tests, the impact on doctors and their autonomy, and beliefs about unnecessary testing. Patients thought that blood tests were important, powerful and inexpensive, and cost information could place doctors under additional pressure.

The findings identify predominantly positive beliefs about testing and negative attitudes to the use of financial costs in the decision-making of hospital doctors. Public discussion and education about the possible overuse of common tests may allow more resources to be allocated to evidence-based healthcare, by reducing the perception that such strategies to improve healthcare efficiency negatively impact on quality of care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-340
JournalPublic Health
Early online date26 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2020


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