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COST: Boston Hospital Says "Uncle," Buys Robot

November 24, 2008 - 1:56pm

Months ago, in one of several posts about the daVinci Robot Surgical System,(also here and here), we wrote about Paul Levy's struggle over whether to purchase one for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, where he is CEO. Levy revisited the topic in a post he called "Uncle!"

He's still not convinced whether the clinical efficiency measures up to the manufacturers' marketing efficiency, but concluded he had to surrender to the technology arms race... one reason which health costs are pushed ever higher. He wrote:

Without making any representations about the relative clinical value of this robotic system versus manual laparoscopic surgery, I am writing to let you know we have decided to buy one for our hospital. Why? Well, in simple terms, because virtually all the academic medical centers and many community hospitals in the Boston area have bought one. Patients who are otherwise loyal to our hospital and our doctors are transferring their surgical treatments to other places. Prospective residents who are trying to decide where to have their surgical training look upon our lack of the robot as a deficit in our education program. Prospective physician recruits feel likewise. And, these factors are now spreading beyond urology into the field of gynecological surgery. So as a matter of good business planning, concern for the quality of our training program, and to continue to attract and retain the best possible doctors, the decision was made for us.

It's one of many reasons we look forward toward health reform that makes use of more evidence-based analysis of what works, and what's a worthy investment.

PS. Speaking of robots, we recently had to do a little consumer research on replacing vacuum cleaners (didn't they used to last more than five years?) and just out of curiousity, we checked on those little round do-it-themselves vacuum robots. They may be cute, but apparently some of them have an unfortunate propensity for shutting doors behind them and locking themselves in the room. We trust the problem has no surgical equivalent...