Home E-Weekly January 14, 2014

Study: Most Orthopods Don't Know How Much Implants Cost

Published: January 13, 2014

Many orthopedic surgeons don't know how much hip and knee implants cost, even though they believe cost should be an important part of deciding which implant to use, suggests a recent study in the journal Health Affairs.

A survey of 503 surgeons and surgical residents conducted by researchers at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, revealed only 21% of attending physicians and 17% of residents correctly estimated the cost of implantable devices, while 36% of surgeons and 75% of residents rated their knowledge of implant costs "below average" or "poor." More than 80% of the respondents believe the cost of implants is "moderately" to "extremely" important to know.

The researchers say their findings show surgeons need increased access to the prices of the devices they're implanting, and should be incentivized to participate in cost-containment efforts.

Orthopedic surgeon Kanu Okike, MD, the study's lead author, told Kaiser Health News that orthopedic surgeons are often left in the dark. "We never see the cost displayed anywhere, and even if you were interested, there's no great way to find it," says Dr. Okike.

The study's authors say facilities often sign non-disclosure agreements with implant manufacturers to keep the true costs under wraps. That way, manufacturers can sell devices at different prices to different facilities and, in turn, the facilities can increase per-procedure profits by opting for lower cost implants, which Dr. Okike says haven't been proven to negatively impact surgical outcomes.

Some facilities are starting to reveal the cost of implants so surgeons make more informed decisions, but Dr. Okike points to a general lack of price transparency across health care as a major issue that device manufacturers need to be pressured to change.

Daniel Cook

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