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7 Reasons Hospitals Buy Technology They Don't Need

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 12, 2012

As they and the ECRI report point out, there is no evidence that proton beam treatments cure cancer or reduce side effects better than other treatments for adult cancers.  Nevertheless, competing hospitals are building two of them 10 minutes apart in my town, San Diego, these will cost more than $200 million apiece.

3. Providing hope. Hospitals and doctors really, sincerely, honestly and truly (it's in their DNA) want to offer patients hope that some new technology can improve their chances of a better diagnoses, better treatment and a faster, better cure, even if the data doesn't yet say so. The same logic explains why many physicians still give patients with influenza a prescription for antibiotics.

4. It's a bargain. The vendor or sales rep is offering the hospital or physician a great deal, an opportunity to be first in their town or state, if the customer installs and markets the technology and advertises it in local media directly to consumers. Myers says physicians and vendors develop close relationships. "Physicians go out to dinner with these sales reps, they (become) their best friends and they go on vacations with them."

Kaufman says, "they might give you the MRI, but you have to pay for maintenance, buy upgrades, and the coils. And, if they give it to the right people, like the pundits at a university and they do research with it, that sells it too."

5. Philanthropic influence. A philanthropist, sometimes a member of the board, saw it elsewhere and thinks there should be one in his or her hometown in a building named accordingly, and may be willing to donate a portion of the expense.

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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.