Do GPs who are co-located with pathology services order more tests?

Click to estimate the cost of getting sick (US)

I’ve cautioned before about the dangers of physical determinism i.e. glibly assuming that the physical environment (or geography) is the driving force underlying human behaviour. Sometimes it is, sometimes it exacerbates another problem, but more often it’s the symptom rather than the cause.

So it was with interest that I noted a new study reported in The Age today that investigated if Melbourne and Sydney GPs who are co-located with pathology collection centres tend to order more tests than GPs who aren’t. I’ve had a look at the study, undertaken by the Melbourne University School of Population Health, in the latest issue of the Medical Journal of Australia.

The study defines co-location as where a GP and a pathology centre are located in the same premises. This group was compared with GPs located at least 50 metres from the nearest pathology centre.

The hypothesis that co-location might lead to a higher propensity to order pathology services seems plausible given, as the authors say, that many studies have shown how doctors’ contact with the pharmaceutical industry can influence their clinical decision-making: Read the rest of this entry »