As an Atlanta lawyer handling mostly catastrophic truck wreck cases, I tend to view doctors more as friends than adversaries. However, the opinions of some notwithstanding, they are as human as the rest of us.
The X-Ray Technicians blog recently posted a list of medical procedures with very high profit margins, suggesting that at least some of them may be overutilized. As consumers of medical services, we should be alert to wastes of money, whether our own or the insurance company’s. Some of the items on the list have the smell of frivolity, e.g, medi-spa treatments, chemical skin peels and botox injections. But if I ever need it, I don’t want any skimping on spine surgery (been there, done that), heart surgery, diagnostic imaging and chemo. And I can tell you that the cardiac scan sure gave me a lot of peace of mind.
- Medi-spa treatments: Spa treatments are spa treatments, whether you’re in a medical setting or not. The convenience factor and implied credibility of a medi-spa, however, means you’ll pay a lot more.
- Mammogram: This high cost screening procedure has been found to be ineffective and can even spread malignant cells. The Cancer Prevention Coalition recommends clinical and self-exams as an effective low cost alternative.
- Physician dispensed prescriptions: Doctors can make thousands of dollars a year dispensing medication out of their offices, and maintenance medications are especially profitable.
- Chemical skin peels: In 2003, chemical peels created an annual gross of more than $578 million in the United States. This highly elective surgery commands higher pricing than low demand, complex procedures. Chemical peels are almost never covered by insurance.
- Laser surgery: Laser-assisted surgery is a cash cow for both doctors and laser manufacturers.
- Cardiac catheterization: Many medical centers find that they have a high return on investment of an arterial closure device that facilitates cardiac catherization.
- Holistic medicine: Procedures such as acupuncture massage, and other alternative therapies are very lucrative, with a high margin of revenue when compared with the physician’s time spent.
- Gastric bypass: Gastric bypass centers are popping up all over the country because obesity surgery is a high-margin business. Even better, it’s often fully covered by insurance.
- Glasses and contacts: The glasses and contacts that you wear every day are a high-margin, repetitive product that makes a lot of money.
- Radiopharmaceuticals: These therapeutic and diagnostic molecular imaging radioactive pharmaceuticals present a profitable venture for medical practicioners.
- Heart scans: Cardiologists make millions by offering scans to baby boomers concerned with early screening.
- Spine surgery: Sine surgery isn’t generally regarded as a high-volume, high-profit procedure, but it is moving in that direction. The Medical District Surgery Center in Last Vegas reports that doctors who perform spinal surgery are reimbursed from $3,000 to $35,000 per case.
- Heart surgery: Heart surgery is an incredibly profitable procedure. So profitable, in fact, that a hospital in California carried out hundreds of heart operations instead of simpler, cheaper alternatives.
- Hysterectomy: Hysterectomy is a high paid surgery, and it is a relatively fast procedure. Many women undergo hysterectomies to take care of fibroids and other reproductive troubles, when there are alternative procedures that are not as drastic and profitable.
- Osteoporosis screening: This diagnostic procedure is a profit center for doctors, with an aging population that needs to be screened and insurance companies that are willing to reimburse generously.
- Fertility treatments: Many doctors who offer fertility treatments enjoy high profits from their work, some of them even earning a commission for finding egg donors.
- Circumcision: Circumcision create a billion-dollar a year industry. This unnecessary surgery is often recommended because it will prevent a variety of ills, however they have been largely discredited.
- Chemotherapy drugs: Oncologists almost always sell chemotherapy drugs, which is a highly profitable source of revenue. If you feel that you’re not getting the right treatment for your cancer or you’re being treated with unnecessary chemotherapy, get a second opinion.
- 24-hour access: Doctors can charge $3,000 or more every year by offering unlimited 24-hour access to themselves. So if you need help in the middle of the night, you’re going to pay for it.
- Lab work: Some doctors can earn as much as $2.3 million every year just by running a lab in the office. This is especially profitable for practices that have patients that require bloodwork on a constant basis, like diabetics.
- Outpatient procedures: Just about any surgery or procedure that’s performed on an outpatient basis is incredibly profitable because you can be discharged quickly.
- Lasik: Lasik is a popular and profitable surgery, although it’s almost never paid for by insurance. This expensive procedure is responsible for a significant jump in the compensation of most opthamologists.
- Diagnostic imaging: Procedures like CT, ultrasounds, and MRI will boost your doctor’s bottom line. An especially profitable imaging procedure is X-ray, because it’s cheaper to execute.
- Botox injections: These aesthetic injections are profitable because they’re in high demand, and also because you’ll need to make a number of repeat visits for follow-up injections every few months.
- Heart monitoring: Doctors can order devices like the Holter monitor without a huge investment, and reap large financial rewards for offering the service.
The Shigley Law Firm in Atlanta focuses primariliy on representation of plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases arising from motor carrier accidents statewide in Georgia. Ken Shigley is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and former chair of both the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, bus wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks. Recently elected Secretary of the State Bar of Georgia, has been designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. H