Surgery With A Warranty?

What if your surgery came with a warranty? One group of hospitals in central Pennsylvania is trying it, according to the NYT:

The group, Geisinger Health System, has overhauled its approach to surgery. And taking a cue from the makers of television sets, washing machines and consumer products, Geisinger essentially guarantees its workmanship, charging a flat fee that includes 90 days of follow-up treatment.

Even if a patient suffers complications or has to come back to the hospital, Geisinger promises not to send the insurer another bill.

Hey, that’s kinda neat. Let’s just hope that unlike electronics, they won’t give up trying to fix you and replace all your organs with refurbs. —MEGHANN MARCO

In Bid for Better Care, Surgery With a Warranty [NYT]
(Photo: Kalim A. Bhatti/NYT)

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  1. Why have we waited until now to expect this sort of treatment from medical centers? Why hasnt it always been like this?

  2. dbeahn says:

    What, so they tattoo “warranty void if this tattoo damaged or removed” across the incision?

  3. tvh2k says:

    What sucks more is if your hip gives out 10 days after hip replacement surgery and you didn’t buy the warranty, now they can say “you should have purchased the warranty”.

  4. mikyrok says:

    The only effect this will have in the US is creating less of a supply of doctors. When I had my tonsils/adinoids out I was told not to play my saxophone or do any sports for 4 weeks. After 3 weeks I had to perform for jazz band so I played my saxophone. The next day I woke up in a pool of blood because where they cut through my throat to get to my adinoids opened up and I had to go to the hospital to get it cauterized. Under this proposed “90-dat warrenty” I could have easily just said I have no idea what happened I just woke up and the wound was open! This claim would be impossible to verify.. it’s just not a good idea.

    Things happen when you go into surgery/other operations. Medicine isn’t a perfect science, we don’t know everything about the human body and medicines/nutrients/bacterium that affect it so this is unrealistic.

  5. mikyrok says:

    @mikeyrock: “90-day warranty”* (yay proofreading)

  6. dr88 says:

    I saw a clearer picture in the Chicago Tribune this morning and on the white board in the background, it says someone’s name. Isn’t that a violation of HIPPA??

    Just sayin..

  7. FreakyStyley says:

    I have a lifetime warranty on my LASIK as long as I have an eye exam once a year.

  8. TechnoDestructo says:

    Wow, that sounds like a great idea. How much you want to bet malpractice costs decrease significantly for them?


    But…

    “In reassessing how they perform bypass surgery, Geisinger doctors identified 40 essential steps. Then they devised procedures to ensure the steps would always be followed, regardless of which surgeon or which one of its three hospitals was involved.

    Doctors can choose not to follow a particular measure, based on the needs of an individual patient. But they rarely do so. And they also know that any of the steps can be altered if new medical evidence emerges.”

    That sounds great now…while all doctors are still used to having their own way on how to treat things, more or less…or more than in the new system.

    When every doctor has learned their craft under the “cookbook,” though, isn’t the risk increased that you have doctors who don’t know how to think on their feet?

  9. TechnoDestructo says:

    @mikeyrock:

    “This claim would be impossible to verify.. it’s just not a good idea.”

    Because people would have lied for you if the hospital had asked?

  10. protest says:

    there are just so many things wrong with this. first of all, why the hell does it take a “warrenty” to make doctors do their job better? sounds like the higher-ups layed down the law ultimatum style like “shape up or ship out,” or “more mistakes, less pay” to improve their bottom line. why else would performance magically improve based on this new arrangement?

    i guess enough people finally complained about how bad our hospitals suck in pa. that and the fact that most people in pa go to other states if they can for major surgury.

  11. Youthier says:

    Am I the only one that thinks this policy is in effect to lower the number of malpractice suits?

  12. not_seth_brundle says:

    Wow, it’s Hawkins v. McGee for the 21st century!

  13. AcidReign says:

    …..@mikeyrock: That’s known as the Jazz Band exemption. In high school, I got my upper lip split in half, all the way up to my nose. It needed 6 Novocaine shots and 18 stitches to close. What was I doing? Playing frisbee with a VW hubcap and coke-bottle glasses. Yeah, kids are real smart…

    …..I was supposed to be done with the trombone for 4-6 months, but I started secretly practicing again after only two weeks. I had a solo in “String of Pearls,” damnit, and I WAS going to play it at the spring concert! I didn’t get found out till I was caught playing “Pomp and Circumstance” at graduation, two months after the accident. My parents were PISSED!

    …..Frankly, I think playing helped my rehab. I did get new appreciation for for the phrase “playing with pain.” I don’t think I would have passed my college audition had I not gotten back to work when I did, either.

    …..If our local hospital (Brookwood Medical Center) had a warranty, you’d probably get a free anesthesia accident with your claim…

  14. gafpromise says:

    Missbrooke06, why is that a bad thing again? If the doctors are making fewer mistakes, that leads to fewer malpractice suits- which are expensive for everyone. Lower the cost of malpractice insurance, lower the costs of treatment for all of us. I’m glad to see more and more initiatives on a regional level to correct the abysmal state of health care in this country. Right or wrong, at least they’re starting to try different approaches.

  15. nightbird says:

    @dr88:

    Only if the patient if easily identifiable. ie, Margaret Jones in anywhere usa is ok, but Margaret Jones in Boston, MA is a violation.

  16. Coder4Life says:

    I dont understand why in the first place shoudl we pay more for visits if we are having complications because they “messed up” on the surgery.

    I could see if they didnt mess up then yeah you can charge.

  17. suburbancowboy says:

    Are the RN’s trained to pitch extended warranties?

  18. yg17 says:

    @suburbancowboy:

    Nah, they’ll just hire Best Buy employees for that. Much cheaper to pay them minimum wage. They better not allow camera phones in the hospital, you wouldn’t want one of them getting videos of a patient getting a sponge bath from a nurse.

  19. swalve says:

    http://www.break.com/index/drumstick-breaks-off-into-kids-

    Speaking of band tragedies, watch the kid in the upper right corner and what happens when his drumstick breaks.

  20. AcidReign says:

    …..That’s a good reason for why I’ve always bought drum machines, and never a real drum!

  21. kprasad says:

    i would say the state of health care in this country is far from “abysmal.” I agree that this is not an answer to anything. Medicine definitely is not a perfect science and humans are not like dvd players. Everyone is different and complications are not always due to error on the part of a surgeon.

    This is just a gimmick. The malpractice situation in this country and the fear it has imposed with its perfect expectations need to be handled differently.

  22. Red_Eye says:

    I am willing to bet that part of the warranty is that you agree to legally binding arbitration in leiu of court.

  23. JDAC says:

    “Let’s just hope that unlike electronics, they won’t give up trying to fix you and replace all your organs with refurbs.”

    As opposed the the brand new, shrink-wrapped organs fresh from the manufacturer? ;)

  24. kimsama says:

    Argh, Geisinger is super lame and shifty — I always hated dealing with them. I’ll bet that they’ll find some way to claim that patients have voided their warranty, or aren’t eligible.

    Also, did you note from the article that they’ll be charging for the surgery plus an estimated half of the 90-day care costs? Which means that you’re basically, yeah, paying more for an extended warranty. How about offering it free with the surgery? I don’t see why it should cost extra to assume your doctor won’t screw you up so bad you’ll be back in 90 days with serious complications.

    Also, can I just add that people will probably be less careful with post-op instructions if they know it won’t cost them anything to come back. Stupid teenagers are always going to do dumb crap like play their sax too soon. But do we want a bunch of heart patients being blase about their recovery? That could cost the health care industry a lot in the end.

  25. Youthier says:

    @gafpromise: Oh, I agree. Some people were accusing doctors of “needing” warranties to do their best. I acutally see it as a protection for them, which isn’t a terrible thing at all.

  26. Another Smurf says:

    At the risk of being cynical… doesn’t such an arrangement give doctors a financial incentive to kill their patients, rather than save their lives but at the expense of a lengthy recovery?