Hospitals that buy surgical robots end up performing more prostate cancer operations, suggesting that technology has become a driving force behind decisions about men’s cancer care, new research shows.
The study, published in the journal Medical Care and explored in the New York Times, is the latest report to suggest that how men are treated for prostate cancer appears to be influenced by a variety of factors, including the technology and marketing goals of hospitals and doctors, rather than scientific evidence on benefits and risks.
The new study, conducted by researchers at New York University and other institutions, was a fairly large one, tracking surgical robot purchases at 554 hospitals, along with the treatment given to more than 30,000 men given a prostate cancer diagnosis from 2001 to 2005.
- Buying a robot led to an average increase of 29 operations a year per hospital.
- Hospitals that own a surgical robot may be that the technology helps a hospital lure potential surgical patients away from the competition.
- The data also suggest that once a hospital obtains a robot, patients who might be candidates for non-surgical options are more likely to be steered toward robotic surgery instead.
- A surgical robot used for prostate cancer costs $1 million to $2.25 million, according to the N.Y.U. study. In addition, hospitals spend $140,000 annually for a service contract and $1,500 to $2,000 per patient on disposable instruments.
The researchers found that treatment patterns varied markedly across the clinical sites studied, and those differences could not be explained by measurable factors like severity of disease or patient age. Read more…