Technology Sticker Shock

I spent some time in the Radiology Department last Friday and I am amazed at the technology.  I sat through a CT of the head and a CT of the cervical spine.  It took Tracy longer to place the patient on the table than to do the actual study.  The images were produced in just a matter of minutes and even I could tell what I was looking at.  (Tracy is an extremely skilled technologist, has excellent customer service skills and it’s apparent that she enjoys what she does which is probably one reason she is so good at her job)

We are considering purchase of a CT/MR workstation and I’m not sure I completely understand what it does but it has something to do with how we produce images of vessels in the body.   Tracy showed me how the images are produced and explained that the process is very manual and it can take a technologist up to 2 hours to mark vessels in the brain.  The workstation automates some part of the process and creates even better images in a shorter period of time.  I viewed a 3D image of the vessels of the brain from a CTA performed in our radiology department and it was amazing.  It looked like the image came straight from the pages of an anatomy text-book. 

The workstation we are considering purchasing costs around $50,000 and in terms of healthcare technology that’s a fairly cheap price tag.  New CT scanners and MRI’s cost around a million dollars, laboratory instruments can cost up to half a million dollars, surgical instruments can run in the hundred thousand dollar range, even something as simple as a hospital bed can cost as much as fifty thousand, talk about sticker shock!  Where does it stop?

Technology in healthcare comes at a price and I wonder how much longer hospitals across the country will be able to afford to keep pace with technology.  There comes a point that the Jones’ can’t even keep up with themselves!  I also wonder if technology has surpassed our ability to provide care.  Can we really treat and cure all of the things we can find wrong with a person?

Healthcare reform will cause hospital reimbursement to decrease in coming years.  History tells us that healthcare technology costs will continue to increase each year.  It will be interesting to see if hospitals can continue to afford new and improved technology and what, if any, benefit patients will receive from new technology. 

Going forward all hospitals will need to evaluate new technology to be sure the benefit to the patient outweighs the cost.  In the end, no matter how good the technology, any hospital is only as good as the outcomes produced.  If technology can’t improve outcomes it holds no value, no matter the price tag!

**Side Note:  Jeremy in Radiology shared with me that he will be teaching a patient care course for the Radiology Program at State Fair Community College.  Talk about lucky, SFCC could not have found a better person to teach their students the right way to take care of patients.  If anybody does it right, it’s Jeremy. 

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Executive Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. At GVMH we care for our families, friends and neighbors. We're committed to providing the safest, friendliest and most compassionate care to all we serve.
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