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OM in the News: Robots vs. Anesthesiologists

September 27, 2013
J&J's Sedasys system

J&J’s Sedasys system

Anesthesiologists, who are among the highest-paid physicians, have long fought people in health care who target their specialty to curb costs. Now the doctors are confronting a different kind of foe, writes The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 26, 2013): machines.

A new system called Sedasys, made by Johnson & Johnson, automates the sedation of many patients undergoing colon-cancer screenings called colonoscopies. That could take anesthesiologists out of the room, eliminating a big source of income for the doctors. More than $1 billion is spent each year sedating patients undergoing otherwise painful colonoscopies.  Sedasys “is a great way to improve care and reduce costs,” says J&J’s CEO.

Anesthesiologist’s involvement typically adds $600 to $2,000 to the colon-cancer screening procedure’s cost, By contrast, Sedasys would cost about $150 a procedure.

As J&J markets Sedasys, many anesthesiologists are sounding the alarm. They say the machine could endanger some patients because it uses a powerful drug known as propofol that could be used improperly. They also worry that if the anesthesiologist isn’t in the room, he might not be able to get to an emergency fast enough to prevent harm.

But during testing, none of the 1,700 patients sedated by Sedasys required rescuing. This past May, the FDA approved Sedasys for use on healthy patients 18 years of age and older who require mild or moderate levels of sedation during the colon-cancer screenings.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of technology such as Sedasys?

2.  Why can’t this system be used in more complex surgeries, like heart operations??

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