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PODs Spark a Political War

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, June 16, 2011

Among the patient-related concerns noted in the Senate report:

One surgeon provided examples to the committee of elderly patients who received eight to ten back fusion surgeries despite the serious health risks posed by the procedures.

Another example was of an elderly patient who had a herniated disc and ended up receiving four fusion operations based on the recommendation of the surgeon, who happened to be a member of a POD.

Other surgeons provided examples of patients who had died from multiple operations.

While there should be a crackdown of those who abuse the POD practice, general criticism against PODs is wrong, says Steinmann.

Steinmann describes it as the most effective means of hospital/physician alignment, and reflective of what healthcare reform is all about. The Senate report noted that in 2009 a POD in California asserted that its model helped save the hospital they were affiliated with 34% over a two-year period on the purchase of implantable devices, with a total savings of more than $1 million. 

The example sounds exactly like the one that Steinmann says he has been involved in. When it is set up correctly, surgeon owned distribution models would ensure lower cost and demonstrate transparency, Steinmann says.

All this criticism of the PODs is wrapped around self-interests of those in the medical device industry to thwart competition, says Steinmann and W. Bradley Tully, an attorney with the Los Angeles-based Hooper, Lundy and Bookman.

"What you are seeing in Washington DC, [is a] lobbying effort by the medical device industry to eliminate a threat of competition," Steinmann says.

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