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Surgeons

In it for the money? Surgeons with financial stake in clinic operate twice as much

Monday, August 23, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: surgeons, money, health news


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(NaturalNews) Doctors with a financial stake in outpatient surgery centers are twice as likely to refer patients for certain surgical procedures as doctors without a financial stake, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan, Washington University, and Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP in Detroit. The study was published in the journal Health Affairs.

"To the extent that owners are motivated by profit, one potential explanation for our findings is that these physicians may be lowering their thresholds for treating patients with these common outpatient procedures," researcher John Hollingsworth said.

The researchers examined all cases of carpal tunnel release, cataract extension, colonoscopy, knee arthroscopy and myringotomy with tympanostomy tube placement that took place in the state of Florida over a given time period. All these are common outpatient procedures.

The researchers then examined which doctors had performed these procedures, comparing surgery rates among those who owned a center and those who did not. They found that owners of surgery centers operated on patients twice as frequently as those who did not own such centers. In addition, individual doctors' surgery rates increased more rapidly over time after they purchased a stake in a surgery center than non-owners' rates over the same time period.

"Our data suggest that physician behavior changes after investment in an outpatient facility," Hollingsworth said. "Through what some have labeled the 'triple dip,' physician owners of surgery centers not only collect a professional fee for the services provided, but also share in their facility's profits and the increased value of their investment. This creates a potential conflict of interest."

The number of outpatient surgery centers operating in the United States has increased by almost 50 percent in the last 10 years. Eighty-three percent of these facilities are at least partially owned by a doctor.

"Insofar as our results are due to lowered treatment thresholds, policymakers should consider, at the very least, requiring all physicians to disclose their financial interests to their patients," Hollingsworth said.

Sources for this story include: http://www2.med.umich.edu/prmc/media/newsroo....

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