Thursday, October 14, 2010

You Paid How Much?

It seems that when I talk to a patient with a fracture, I have to spend 5-10 minutes debunking myths and misinformation that they have received from their doctors. It seems that even in 2010, a lot of patients are being treated like it was 1980. "There's nothing we can do for you" or "It will heal on its own" are common things I hear, as well as lack of knowledge about procedures to fix these painful fractures.

Training at the University of Oklahoma, I frequently heard "Don't ask your barber if you need a haircut"--a colloquial way of saying 'Don't ask your surgeon if you need surgery'. When I do see patients who have been treated for their fractures, it's usually with metal hardware (usually costing well over $10,000) or an expensive 'kyphoplasty' kit.

There are many places where common sense could save a lot of money in healthcare. For example, you would never pay $3,000 for a procedure that could cost you $300--or would you?

When you're suffering from a painful vertebral compression fracture (VCF), cost is often the last thing on your mind. However, by choosing the wrong doctor, you could end up with a procedure that costs thousands more.

I specifically use devices to fix these painful VCFs which cost substantially less than other devices while delivering comparable results, particularly in pain reduction. One commonly used device typically used by other doctors costs about $5,500 to fix just fracture. If you were to have two fractures fixed, this generally costs $10,000 or more.

By contrast, the systems that I use typically cost about $1,200--and can treat 2, 3, sometimes even 4 fractures for that cost if needed.

I can remember a case when I first came to Tulsa. At a local hospital, a radiologist used equipment cost about $17,000. This was performed by a so-called expert in the field listed as a "Top Radiologist". However, the same procedure could have easily been performed for less than $1,500. That's would have resulted in savings of over 90% and knocked the patient's cost for the equipment from $3,400.00 to $300.00

These costs are passed on to the patients. I realize that a lot of doctor's don't consider the cost of a procedure. For example, a typical Medicare patient has a 20% copay. If you chose me over another provider, you could save up to $900 on the cost of a typical procedure.

If you happen to go to a doctor who doesn't consider your costs, you could pay up to $3,000 more for your procedure with typical copays. That's just money out the window, which is hard to justify in boom times, much less this economy.

Add to that, the fact that I fix hundreds of fractures each year where most docs only fix a few, and the choice is clear. When it comes to VCF, we offer Cadillac quality at Ford prices.

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