Differences in Costs of Treatment for Foot Problems between Podiatrists and Orthopedic Surgeons

Robin B. Harris, John M. Harris, Jon Hultman, Scott Weingarten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

We examined charge data for health insurance claims paid in 1992 for persons under age 65 covered by a large California managed care plan. Charge and utilization comparisons between podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons were made for all foot care and for two specific foot problems, acquired toe deformities and bunions. Podiatrists provided over 59% of foot care services for this commercial population of 576,000 people. Podiatrists charged 12% less per individual service than orthopedists. However, podiatrists performed substantially more procedures per episode of care and treated patients for longer time periods, resulting in 43% higher total charges per episode. Hospitalization was infrequent for all providers, although podiatrists had the lowest rates. In a managed care setting in which all providers must adhere to a preestablished fee schedule, regardless of specialty, the higher utilization by podiatrists should lead to higher overall costs. In some cases, strong utilization controls could offset this effect. We do not know if the utilization difference is due to actual treatment or billing differences. Further, we were unable to determine from the claims data if one specialty had better outcomes than the other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1577-1583
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Managed Care
Volume3
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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