The Effect of Price on Surgeons' Choice of Implants: A Randomized Controlled Survey
SourceThe Journal of Hand Surgery, 42, 8, (2017), pp. 593-601.e6
Article / Letter to editor
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The Journal of Hand Surgery
SubjectRadboudumc 10: Reconstructive and regenerative medicine RIMLS: Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences
PURPOSE: Surgical costs are under scrutiny and surgeons are being held increasingly responsible for cost containment. In some instances, implants are the largest component of total procedure cost, yet previous studies reveal that surgeons' knowledge of implant prices is poor. Our study aims to (1) understand drivers behind implant selection and (2) assess whether educating surgeons about implant costs affects implant selection. METHODS: We surveyed 226 orthopedic surgeons across 6 continents. The survey presented 8 clinical cases of upper extremity fractures with history, radiographs, and implant options. Surgeons were randomized to receive either a version with each implant's average selling price ("price-aware" group), or a version without prices ("price-naive" group). Surgeons selected a surgical implant and ranked factors affecting implant choice. Descriptive statistics and univariate, multivariable, and subgroup analyses were performed. RESULTS: For cases offering implants within the same class (eg, volar locking plates), price-awareness reduced implant cost by 9% to 11%. When offered different models of distal radius volar locking plates, 25% of price-naive surgeons selected the most expensive plate compared with only 7% of price-aware surgeons. For cases offering different classes of implants (eg, plate vs external fixator), there was no difference in implant choice between price-aware and price-naive surgeons. Familiarity with the implant was the most common reason for choosing an implant in both groups (35% vs 46%). Price-aware surgeons were more likely to rank cost as a factor (29% vs 21%). CONCLUSIONS: Price awareness significantly influences surgeons' choice of a specific model within the same implant class. Merely including prices with a list of implants leads surgeons to select less expensive implants. This implies that an untapped opportunity exists to reduce surgical expenditures simply by enhancing surgeons' cost awareness. TYPE OF STUDY/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Economic/Decision Analyses I.
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