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Physicians' Ties to IMD Manufacturers Can Ratchet Up Costs

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, February 23, 2012

Like many of us, physicians have a tendency to fall in love with their gadgets. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as comedian Jerry Seinfeld might say, but then again, maybe there is. 

Especially if they grow too fond of the gadget makers.

I'm not talking about personal technology like smartphones or iPads. I'm talking about expensive medical devices, particularly implantable ones used in cardiology and orthopedic procedures, and the companies that manufacture them. A single cardioverter defibrillator implant, for instance, can cost as much as $19,000.

Physicians might be smitten by what the device can do, even if they don't know the price tag.  And sometimes they have relationships with manufacturers.

Sometimes, there might be nothing wrong with that. But physicians play a key role in procuring those devices.  

A little-noticed General Accountability Office report released last month points out potential problems of the physician-device maker connection, noting that "strong" physician relationships with manufacturers or doctors' preferences on different models of implantable medical devices (IMDs) may undermine the ability of hospitals to make prudent purchasing decisions.

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