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What are the most overrated, overpriced health care technologies?

by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor | November 18, 2013
FierceHealthIT, the daily news digest for health IT executives, compiled a list of what it considers the five most overpriced and overrated technologies in health care. This is certainly a single analysis and we encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

At the top of the list is proton beam therapy. By now, everyone knows how expensive the investment can be in this advanced cancer treatment — one that can easily exceed $100 million. Yet, more proton therapy centers have been cropping up across the country in the past few years even though doctors remain wary of the technology. Amitabh Chandra, a health economist from Harvard University, said proton therapy centers are the "death star of American medical technology." FierceHealthIT also mentioned the KLAS report from 2012 that said proton therapy was expensive with little data to back up its effectiveness.

Based on the number of studies that come up weekly warning of its danger, it's no surprise that robotic surgery made FierceHealthIT's list. Most recently, the ECRI Institute listed robotic surgery on its top 10 health technology hazards list, citing concerns about a lack of standards and proper training and credentialing.

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Next on the list are electronic health records, which can cost a provider roughly $15,000 to $70,000 — and that's just for purchasing and installing the technology. There are also additional costs to consider with new staff, training and updates. A few studies, including one from HIMSS, found that many physicians believe the cost of the technology outweighs the benefit.

CT scans also made the list, perhaps because they are expensive and overused in the U.S. The article said that the number of CT scans rose from three million to 70 million from 1980 to 2007.

Finally, drug-emitting heart stents are a huge cost to the health care system. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine from 2012 found that reducing the number of drug-coated stents could save over $200 million a year, and that PET/CT could do a better job of helping doctors predict a patient's risk of heart attack with more accuracy than drug-coated stents.

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