Health News Review

Any time an orthopedic surgeon goes into an operating room, there may be tens of thousands of dollars of devices under consideration for his/her use.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that surgeon knew how much the stuff cost?

A paper in Health Affairs, written by orthopedic surgeons, reports on a survey of 503 orthopedic attending physicians and residents at seven academic medical centers.  They were asked to estimate the costs of thirteen commonly used orthopedic devices.  Excerpt:

“…Most respondents indicated that cost should play an important role in the selection of devices. However, actual knowledge of device costs was low among attending physicians and residents alike. This was true even though our survey asked about common orthopedic devices, used institution-specific vendors and pricing, and excluded disposable components and other nonimplanted items. … The actual cost of each device was determined at each institution; estimates within 20 percent of the actual cost were considered correct. …Attending physicians correctly estimated the cost of the device 21 percent of the time, and residents did so 17 percent of the time. Thirty-six percent of physicians and 75 percent of residents rated their knowledge of device costs “below average” or “poor.” However, more than 80 percent of all respondents indicated that cost should be “moderately,” “very,” or “extremely” important in the device selection process.”


Addendum:  Here’s the Kaiser Health News story on the survey paper.


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Tom posted on January 6, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Yes, it would be nice if surgeons knew the cost of the things they plan to implant. Wouldn’t it also be nice if patients knew it?

Greg Pawelski posted on January 7, 2014 at 10:53 am

I’ll always remember the day when I asked my 88-year-old mother’s orthopedic surgeon, who had been coaxing her to receive a knee device so he can obtain his Fellowship. I asked, “Do you have an example to show us what this device looks like?” His replay was, “No, it’s too expensive to have an example here to show you.” He knew the cost of the thing he wanted to implant. It’s just that it was too expensive for him to have one in the office to actually show his patients.