It is a war on rising hospital costs, being fought one tiny balloon at a time.
And as with most wars, some of the tactics are controversial. Until recently,
some cardiologists at the PinnacleHealth System hospital group in Pennsylvania
would inflate a new artery-opening balloon each time they inserted a stent into
a patient's clogged arteries. Now, if they can, these doctors will use a single
balloon throughout a patient's procedure. That simple step, which the doctors
say poses no additional risk to patients, saves at least a couple of hundred
dollars a procedure. And here lies the controversy the doctors
share in any money they save the hospital. While the new approach gives them
a financial incentive to be more cost-conscious, it also fundamentally recasts
the traditional arm's-length relationship between a hospital and the doctors
who practice there.