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Innovation caps rising costs of surgical care

Article-Innovation caps rising costs of surgical care

Automation of surgical workflows can save an average of US$78 on related supplies.

Every year, over 310 million major surgical procedures are performed worldwide, with approximately 40 to 50 million in the US alone. These procedures are costly based on the resources, time and services provided, but innovation has introduced ways to effectively reduce expenses for both clinicians and patients. It further extends to cover surgical pathways and advanced training simulations using immersive technology. 

According to an analysis from US federal government actuaries, surgery accounts for up to US$1 trillion or 30 per cent in costs, making it an expensive part of the US$3.65-trillion healthcare system in the US. The overall yearly cost of elective inpatient and outpatient surgical procedures in the US is projected to be US$147.2 billion, with total hospital reimbursement ranging from US$195.4 to US$212.2 billion. 

The cost of surgical procedures at in-network hospitals alone is significantly higher than at independent hospitals, reports a recent study titled ‘Evaluation of Prices for Surgical Procedures Within and Outside Hospital Networks in the US’ published in the JAMA Network Open. Innovation, however, has been pivotal to maintaining its affordability. New technologies have also left an impact on the efficiency and improvement of the surgery itself. Digitising surgical processes and developing collaborative tools can help hospitals to better manage resources. 

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Findings from the same study also show that the automation of various surgical workflows and processes saves an average of US$78 on expenses related to medical and surgical supplies. The prices varied greatly between categories, surgeons, and hospitals. 

Experts Dr. Roderick Dunn, Chair of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City Abu Dhabi (SSMC), and Dr. Sumit Verma, MBBS, Head – Provider Management, INAYAH TPA (NLGIC Group), share insights on how innovation can help reduce surgical costs. 

The role of innovation in surgery 

Cutting-edge techniques, such as minimally invasive procedures, AI and robot-assisted surgery and personalised treatments are examples of technologies that aid in creating a faster and swift patient experience, says Dr. Dunn. According to Dr. Verma, the advances in surgical procedures have also noted increased conversations around its cost-effectiveness among the health community. 

"The overall cost of technological procurement for healthcare providers is very high, including maintenance costs. When patients are treated with advanced technology, the outcomes have shown advantages in areas of reduced hospital stay, lower rate of hospital-acquired infection, a faster rate of recovery from the illness, reduction in postoperative care, and modification of post-surgical treatment in cases of ailments such as oncology," says Dr. Verma. 

The link between surgeons and surgical costs 

Surgeons have considerable influence over resource allocation but possess poor knowledge of healthcare costs, according to ‘A study evaluating cost awareness amongst surgeons in a health service under financial strain’. An investigation by the JAMA Surgery, titled ‘Association Between Surgeon Scorecard Use and Operating Room Costs,’ also demonstrates how surgeons have direct control over the supplies they use for a specific surgery, either through their preference card (a list of supplies and equipment required for a certain case) or requests made in the operating room. This results in significant price disparities for similar treatments at the same facility.  

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Therefore, hospitals need to involve surgeons in discussions about current and emerging technologies and products so they can play a role in their healthcare provider’s initiatives to lower the cost of high-quality care. “There are always collaborative efforts between the surgeons, providers, regulators, and insurers to tackle such scenarios. Only through liaison and dialogue can we achieve any kind of success," concludes Dr. Verma. 

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