A paper in the journal Medical Care concludes that hospitals that acquire surgical robots do more radical prostatectomies as a result – an average of 29 more per year – while those without robots actually did fewer radical prostatectomies. Their conclusion:
“Policy makers must recognize the intimate association between technology diffusion and procedure utilization when approving costly new medical devices with unproven benefit.”
In a news release, the lead author said:
“The use of the surgical robot to treat prostate cancer is an instructive example of an expensive medical technology becoming rapidly adopted without clear proof of its benefit,” said Danil V. Makarov, MD, MHS, assistant professor, Department of Urology at NYU Langone Medical Center and assistant professor of Health Policy at NYU Wagner School of Public Health. “Policymakers must carefully consider what the added-value is of costly new medical devices, because, once approved, they will most certainly be used.”
“Patients should be aware that if they seek care at a hospital with a new piece of surgical technology, they may be more likely to have surgery and should inquire about its risks as well as its benefits,” said Dr. Makarov. “Hospitals administrators should also consider that new technology may increase surgical volume, but this increase may not be sufficient to compensate for its cost.”
Addendum: Here’s the New York Times column on this study, posted a day later.