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7 Reasons Hospitals Buy Technology They Don't Need

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 12, 2012

6. Personal interest. The biggest proponent of the device owns a piece of the technology. Myers recalls one case in which ECRI was called in to evaluate a purchase, and "physically test a cold pack on the market that used a powder. In our evaluation, however, we found that it was no better than the traditional cold pack, and it turned out that the physician pushing for this – and it was something as simple as a bag of (frozen) peas – owned part of the company."

7. Economics.  "All these are window dressing for the real reason, which is economics," Kaufman tells me. "[Hospital leaders] believe [this technology] is going to attract more patients or more doctors, or they think in the long run it will reduce costs. That's the reason they're doing it."

Well, whatever the reason—be it pressure from whiny doctors or great deals—buying unnecessary technology also can be prevented. Myers says that by establishing a value analysis committee, including supply chain officials and hospital executives, as well as the doctors who want these technologies for a particular service line are on the panel, everyone considers the needs of the whole hospital, and that encourages a different perspective.

"It's a process that helps filter out the marketing fluff from the vendors," Myers says. "It helps hospitals and administrators have a third party referee that throws up the flag, and says wait a minute, this isn't a technology you should be investing in now."

Chantal Worzala, director of policy development for the American Hospital Association, notes that patients want innovation and technology. But she adds, "Many factors need to be considered when an investment decision is made," and that it's not always "a straight line process. I think folks will be looking at the ECRI report in the future to inform their decisions."


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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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.