Across medicine, lowering the cost of patient care has become an important goal for the health care system. Supply costs have a significant impact on a hospital's bottom line, and physician decision-making can play a major role in determining these supply costs. Surgeon choices regarding the use of disposable equipment in the operating room represent an opportunity for cost control to help reduce supply costs. Other disciplines, such as primary care and emergency medicine, have demonstrated that physician education on costs of lab tests, drugs, or imaging tests can lower overall costs in these areas.
We hypothesized that similarly, surgeon education about the actual cost of disposable supplies would help reduce their average disposable costs in the operating room.
In our department, a total of 10 surgeons participated in the study (Surgeon A through Surgeon J). Across our 4-hospital network, an overall cost savings of $70,194 in FY14 was realized for all inguinal hernia repairs. Laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair savings accounted for $62,472 and open inguinal hernia repair savings accounted for $7,722.
Our results in the study suggest that the challenge of disposable supply costs may not be surgeon apathy or unwillingness to participate in cost reduction. The solution may lie in surgeon education and empowerment. Surgeons' recognition of both the cost of supplies and their individual performance, compared with that of their peers, allowed for reduction in disposable costs across the department for a common general surgery operation. Additional study is necessary to determine the role of surgeon education in cost reduction across other operations in general surgery and in other surgical disciplines.