Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Perceived Cost Bias: A Mental Menace

One of the most interesting perception phenomena I have encountered in clinical medicine is a person’s perception of medical costs.  Interactions with acute care hospitals seem to be the driving force in the formation of high cost perceptions.  In short, the amazingly high bills create sticker shock.  The natural human tendency is to generalize the hospital cost experience and apply that cost perception to all facets of medicine.   No doubt, there are lab tests and medications that are incredibly expensive, but are all parts of medicine equally expensive? What about medical care that occurs outside of the hospital?

What is the cost of a cholesterol panel?  Do you know?  What is your best guess?  Write it down. 

When I ask, I usually hear guesses ranging from the $50’s to the $400’s. What is your guess?  Seriously, write it down.

If you shop for the price of a cholesterol panel from the websites listed on HealthScepter, you can find a price for as low as $25.00 from iNeedLabs.com (http://www.ineedlabs.com/Lipid-Panel.html).  If you guessed significantly higher than $25.00, then you can see how the perceived cost bias has changed your thinking. 

This perception problem is more than just an interesting academic exercise.  Many people do not seek follow up testing needed to control chronic conditions due to the perception that the price will be so high that they cannot afford it.
So here is my challenge for you.  If you need some lab tests, use HealthScepter to check the prices of the labs you need.  If you have skipped a necessary test because you think the cost will be too high, check to see the direct cash price.  Delaying care can be serious.  So start comparing prices.  It is time to Rule Your Healthcare®. 

(Disclosure:  HealthScepter does not currently receive any revenue from iNeedLabs.com)


  1. If there is anything we can do to help your community here & help promote awareness that as both a patient & a consumer, you do have a measure of control on your health care dollars... just let me know, we'd love to help - Chris

    1. Thanks for your input. If you know someone who is struggling to pay for their care, let them know about the resources on HealthScepter.com so they can lower their costs. Many times people dramatically overestimate the cost of care and their perception cost bias becomes thier barrier to care. If we work together, we can bring positive change.

  2. Let's do it... always looking to add partners to the mission - Chris