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7 Reasons Hospitals Buy Technology They Don't Need

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 12, 2012

"Whining is not an unusual event for doctors in the healthcare system," Kaufman says, but in this new environment where hospitals want to recruit doctors, a high-producing physician threatening to leave becomes a bigger issue.

One example of physicians demanding a technology comes with the da Vinci, a robot used primarily for prostate cancer and hysterectomy surgeries, and which number 1,500.

The ECRI report describes "costly robot wars." It says that although proponents tout the da Vinci's improved visualization capabilities, as  well as its precision, and dexterity, at a $3.5 million, five-year cost, ECRI says, "the real unanswered questions are how much value they add, and, more importantly, how and when will they definitively improve patient care and long-term outcomes?"

2. Marketing campaigns to best the competition. C-suite executives or board members think a particular technology may look good on a TV or billboard marketing campaign.  The ads say this hospital or practice really cares (much more so than its competitors) about its patients. It says these doctors are smarter, because they've taken the time to learn this new technology. Myers says that once a competitor buys something big, hospitals become "very reactive, almost like they go into panic mode and they have to buy" the same thing.

One example is proton-beam therapy.  On Jan. 2, an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times slammed the Mayo Clinic for building two football field-sized, $180 million proton beam centers, one in Rochester, MN and another in Phoenix, AZ, and called it "crazy medicine and unsustainable public policy."

The authors, University of Pennsylvania provost Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, an oncologist and former White House adviser, and Steven D. Pearson, MD, a general internist, and president of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review at the Massachusetts General Hospital's Institute for Technology Assessment said the Mayo is competing with a handful of other hospital systems that have them in a "medical arms race" That doesn't improve care.

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2 comments on "7 Reasons Hospitals Buy Technology They Don't Need"


Jessie (1/12/2012 at 10:38 PM)
Why does Chris VanGorder cry everytime UCSD makes competitive gains in San Diego's marketplace? Start focusing on what's really important like patient safety. Implement an electronic record with a CPOE to allow benchmarking with top hospitals across the country. Find a niche and stick with it[INVALID]looking across the field at the "U" will not improve unless you fix what's wrong inside.

Michael Cylkowski (1/12/2012 at 8:01 PM)
Gene Schneller, PhD, Health Sector Supply Chain Management Professor at Arizona State University's W.P Carey School for Business claims that Physician Preference Items (PPI) are one of the uncontrolled healthcare costs. It is constantly the outlier cost that seems unsolvable. We have made solving that problem our competitive advantage in the open-heart surgery customer segment. Surgery is about adapting to the unique anatomical problems but most surgeons are constrained by what tools they were trained to use. And the popularity of a PPI can be geographical and often traced to the diligence of the local device rep. We have established relationships with surgeons that have the confidence and skills to use products that other surgeons may have abandoned. We have identified physicians that can adapt to other equipment and when asked will use items that may otherwise go obsolete in this geographic market.