Health News Review

From “Not Running a Hospital” blog

Since I think it’s a safe bet that not many of you regularly read The Bulletin newspaper of Bend, Oregon, I suggest you read a two-part series by Markian Hawryluk as just one indication of the difference one individual can make, no matter the size of the news organization.

In part one, Robot surgery is here to stay,” he discusses important issues of the marketing blitz for robotic surgery, a lack of data, and a long learning curve for surgeons.

In part two, “Robotic surgery may raise costs,” he explains how there are incentives for doctors to do robotic surgery because Medicare pays them more for that than for traditional open surgery.

A new twist on the marketing blitz: the marketing department of a New Jersey hospital system, CarePoint Health, sent out a news release, announcing:

CarePoint Health is pleased to present the opening event in the Dine and Discover free dinner and lecture series. Dr. Daniel Smith will give a presentation on the da Vinci Robot System. The community is invited for dinner and a fascinating evening to learn how state-of-the-art technology is revolutionizing health care in our region. Dr. Smith leads a groundbreaking surgical initiative at CarePoint Health Christ Hospital where the da Vinci Robot is being used to perform minimally invasive surgery for the first time in Hudson County. He will speak about his pioneering work in robotic surgery and answer questions about how this new technology will change the future of health care.

When you visit the CarePoint website, you find promotion of “Groundbreaking Robotic Surgery Performed for the First Time in Hudson County.” One of the two “pioneering” surgeries was a robotic hysterectomy.

Last year, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warned:

“Robotic surgery is not the only or the best minimally invasive approach for hysterectomy. Nor is it the most cost-efficient. It is important to separate the marketing hype from the reality when considering the best surgical approach for hysterectomies. … Aggressive direct-to-consumer marketing of the latest medical technologies may mislead the public into believing that they are the best choice. Our patients deserve and need factual information about all of their treatment options, including costs, so that they can make truly informed health care decisions.”

And hysterectomy was the focus as another DaVinci robotic surgery system ad campaign appeared.  Former hospital CEO Paul Levy, a frequent critic of DaVinci marketing and proliferation, was on the attack again. Excerpt:

“But now the market for prostate surgery is saturated, so it’s time to move to another type of surgery that raises anxiety, this one for women.  Hysterectomies are the target.  Again, let’s use the heartfelt comments of patients to support the cause, while being soft on scientifically valid clinical studies.”

Stay tuned for the next robot roundup.  Given the trends in the industry, it won’t be long.


Addendum:  I almost forgot this one.  Fox News reports that the first robotic surgery institute in the Caribbean has been opened in the Dominican Republic.  And it’s named after Fox News “Medical A Team” contributor Dr. David Samadi, who often touts robotic surgery on the air. Excerpt of the story:

“This is a huge step in this country and it’s going to bring a lot of patients from the entire Caribbean to this hospital,” Samadi said.

And beyond the Caribbean, with more and more regulations and restrictions coming our way on American soil, many patients will look elsewhere for their surgeries. The new David Samadi Robotic Institute is one of the places they will be looking.

With a robot on every corner in the U.S., I wouldn’t hold my breath about Americans going to the DR for a Samadi special.


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Gilles Frydman posted on March 7, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Interesting than in Feb 10, 2014, almost 2 months after the first 2 articles (WSJ & NYTimes) appeared about the hidden dangers of morcellation done with robot-assisted, “minimally invasive” hysterectomies, the CarePoint site proudly announces one of the 2 surgeries they have performed is a robot-assisted hysterectomy! Makes you wonder if they follow the news and growing doubt of the gynecological surgeons or if this is just about the money.

craig nicholson posted on March 7, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Laparoscopyhad as many if not more critics. The argument was it cost more and there is no data. Sound familiar. This disbelievers almost always havent given the technology a fair evaluation. They also often have something to gain or protect Like atention or the business the consolidated by being a leader in laparoscopy. Funny how once we’ve secured our financial futures by championing a technolgy we choose to ignore that change is iinevitable.

Paul Levy posted on March 8, 2014 at 5:58 am

No one is against new technology, Craig. The issue is whether the new technology produces better outcomes for patients and whether the incremental cost is worth it. On that front, the evidence doesn’t support this approach. It is a classic example of the medical arms race, increasing costs for undocumented clinical benefits.

    benja posted on March 9, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Thank you for pointing this out Paul. We only gain from new technology when we apply the same level of skepticism as we do all new treatment options. I see people rushing to buy the latest device and software without asking what the benefits are or being placated by the sales pitches (less blood loss!, less pain!). Many only have to be told a new tech item is the future and they better not miss the boat, and they will buy anything.
    Glad their are still some critical thinkers out there, keep up the good work.